I will not be sold down the river again

Are the trade unions about to sell us out?

Submitted by working class … on December 19, 2011

I have clearly misjudged the pension’s dispute. Whilst I did not expect to see the trade union leaders take us into to a full scale revolution, I expected a bit more than what I am fearful we are about to get.

Having completed several of the pension calculators doing the rounds, I stand to be £250,000 worse off by the time I die, presuming I live to be 85 (I am 34 now). When I realised the size of the amount, and the impact that it would have on my life and that of my family, I decided that I would be prepared to go on strike for a prolonged period. Even if it crippled me in the short and medium term, the long term considerations far out weight them.

I am guilty of being a bit naïve, and probably fell for a bit of the bluster, wind and piss that ‘tin pot’ union leaders like Barber, and Prentis have been giving us. Although I am well aware of the long history of treachery from the unions, I thought that this time might be different. Capitulation was likely at some point, but not before the government had received a bloody nose, and not before we won some decent concessions. How wrong was I?

I am well aware that not all trade unions have shown their hand yet, and that others such as the PCS have rejected the ‘insult’ that was the last offer, but I am disgusted at the stance of the UNISON leadership.

Christina McAnea, the UNISON Head of Health has said that, “We always knew it would be a damage limitation exercise, aimed at reducing the worst impacts of the government’s pension changes”.

Did we really know that? The offer that you are about to sign up to was offered before we even went on strike, so what has striking achieved? Absolutely nothing is what it has achieved. You have shown nothing but contempt for the 2,000,000 workers who went on strike, and lost a day’s pay that most of them could ill afford, when you were going to sign up to a deal anyway.

As I said, all is not lost yet, as I am sure that several other unions will not give in yet. Unfortunately, if UNISON sign up, then the government has inserted a huge wedge between the trade union movement, which they will use to prise us further apart.

I am unsure as to the exact position as to whether UNISON members will be balloted on this. If they are not, and the decision to accept the deal is taken by a bunch of faceless bureaucrats, I will be absolutely fucking disgusted, and sick to the pit of my stomach.

Whilst I may attract much criticism for saying it, if the trade unions sell me, my family, and my class down the river over this issue. I will never ever work with them again, and I will not pay them anymore money. I for one will not have a ‘trade union membership without illusions’.

I really hope I am wrong.

Comments

baboon

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by baboon on December 19, 2011

No, I don't think that you are. And the "militant" PCS is just another union division - see the other thread on pensions.

Chilli Sauce

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 19, 2011

Yeah, and hasn't even the leader of the NUT (arguably the most "militant" union that struck on the 30th) has spoken favourable about the gov'ts latest offer?

Pretty fucking worrying.

Choccy

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Choccy on December 19, 2011

What I read from Blower sounded reserved but non-dismissive.

"The NUT was not able to sign up to the Government's headline proposals. There was insufficient progress in terms of the Government's position that teachers should work longer, pay more and get less."

That doesn't sound positive.

ATL has signed the deal. Cunts.

lettersjournal

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lettersjournal on December 19, 2011

What did you expect? Unions aren't selling anyone out. They're doing exactly what they always do. There should be no shock or surprise. Getting upset about unions signing deals is like getting upset upset about police being violent: they cannot do differently. It's not worrying. What's worrying is the naivety of anarchists who thought the outcome would be different.

There was a lot of enthusiasm here for the unionist farce of N30. Previously, I thought there was a general rejection of unions and unionism. Was there a shift?

I am unsure as to the exact position as to whether UNISON members will be balloted on this. If they are not, and the decision to accept the deal is taken by a bunch of faceless bureaucrats, I will be absolutely fucking disgusted, and sick to the pit of my stomach.

And if the UNISON membership votes to accept the deal, you will be okay? I don't understand this sort of moral outrage at unions. They are part of the state and always help enforce austerity.

I hope it was clear to everyone that N30 was a deeply cynical farce (if even) and that the unions were going to sign austerity deals. Did anyone really believe a day of political demonstrations would make the deals get better, much less make the deals go away?

Whilst I may attract much criticism for saying it, if the trade unions sell me, my family, and my class down the river over this issue. I will never ever work with them again, and I will not pay them anymore money. I for one will not have a ‘trade union membership without illusions’.

You are aware of the history of trade unions? This is not the first time they've helped enforce austerity deals, if that's what really bothers you. I'm curious what in their history and activity made you want to work with them prior to December, 2011. Seems an odd time to draw a line in the sand.

That doesn't sound positive.

ATL has signed the deal. Cunts.

Again, I'm confused. All unions sign deals and enforce austerity.

Cursing at them and calling them traitors implies that they could do something else than what they're doing. I don't think they can. And going back in time, I don't think there is anything to support in the militant days of the trade unions, either, unless one takes 'communism' to mean a desire to live in the 1970s.

Choccy

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Choccy on December 20, 2011

While we mightn't be surprised we've still every right to point out the sham of what they're doing. The arguments here only point to the need for organising rank and file opposition to the cuts regardless of union membership. I don't know who you think you're arguing with.

And we've every right to call them cunts when they pull this shit.

baboon

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by baboon on December 20, 2011

The first aim of the trade unions was to take any heat out of the situation by organising a one-day strike. As required, they gave bundles of notice, I don't know, but I imagine, loads of dispensations, and they held it on a date that was in the state's and industry's best interests. The unions, as policemen of the working class, would have been well aware of the anger that existed over the attack on pensions and therefore the need to dissipate it as harmlessly as possible. That was the first aim.

To abstractly denounce the strike day and demonstrations would have been an abdication of responsibility from militants who should have been involved in these numbers of workers coming together and putting forward the greatest class interests.

It was always going to happen that the government would, after the strike day was out of the way (which was supported with great numbers and militancy), start to negotiate with different unions, just as different unions wanted to negotiate seperately with the government. This was the second objective for the state overall.

The third objective is to divide the workers along the union lines including the "passive" unions, the undecided ones and the "militants" making any sort of fightback by the working class difficult and ineffective. By their very divisions the unions form a united totality against the working class.

I don't think that we can assume that this is clear to a great number of workers. Union ideology is very strong and will remain so for a while. We have only to look at the strength of the persistance of the idea of "the union leaders 'selling out'" to see that this is so.

I don't think that any of this should make us any the less angry in denouncing these enemies of the working class nor any the less determined to put forward the necessity for self-organisation.

Serge Forward

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Serge Forward on December 21, 2011

Whilst I may attract much criticism for saying it, if the trade unions sell me, my family, and my class down the river over this issue. I will never ever work with them again, and I will not pay them anymore money. I for one will not have a ‘trade union membership without illusions’.

That's up to you fella and your response is understandable but would, I think, be a mistake. A good starting point is not to have unrealistic expectations of what the trade unions are about in the first place and have a stronger grasp of where they stand in relation to capital. In this way, Baboon is essentially correct in his/her analysis.

I am a union member, I have no illusions as to the fundamental nature and role of trade unionism, however, it is often a starting point for bringing together the most militant working people and allows us a greater degree of 'freedom' or 'protection' to organise in our workplaces with less fear of arbitrary repercussions from management, though indeed, there are drawbacks.

Look at it like this: when you're out of work, you sign on the dole and make the best of it; when you're working, you join a union and make the best of it. The fact that the DSS are shitheads and there are many problems with social security doesn't mean one shouldn't claim benefits. The fact that union leaders are shitheads and there are fundamental problems with trade unionism in itself doesn't mean one shouldn't organise our fellow workers inside and outside of the unions to the best of our abilities, often in spite of trade unionism and its leaders.

Steven.

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on December 21, 2011

Yeah, I feel your anger.

It does look like n30 was just an exercise to let us let off steam.

In terms of whether we will be balloted (in unison) I'm not sure. We were back in 2006 when the same thing happened, albeit to a very slightly lesser extent, but with the union's recommendation it got a 98% yes vote.

In terms of saying that you won't be a member of the union anymore, while letters is a troll, he does have a point here. The unions have done stuff like this before (indeed, this is their standard behaviour). So why be a member before, but not after?

I'm not excusing this behaviour, just saying if you thought it was worth being a member before, then you should after as well, as them doing this is not qualitatively different from anything else they ever do.

Regardless of what happens in this dispute, as workers and communist/anarchists our approach should remain the same in my view. That if we rely on acting through the unions, we will lose. We have to organise beyond them as much as possible - whether we are members of them or not.

Duds4u

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Duds4u on December 22, 2011

In case any fellow local government workers are interested here is the detail of the joint agreement on the LGPS reform principles/objectives

http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/LGPS_PoP_Campaign9.pdf

I have perused it and my first impression is that - assuming the objectives are realised - local government workers could end up being slightly less 'shafted' than other public sector workers - but then the local government scheme has a number of key differences - such as the basis of its funding and sheer size.

Steven.

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on December 22, 2011

Yeah, looking at what is mentioned by the union they seem to be saying that there will be no contribution increases until 2014. What is not clear is what will happen after that point. It seems to say that after that point nothing will be imposed, and anything introduced will have to be done by negotiation.

But of course by that point if big cuts have already been made to all the other public sector schemes then they won't be able to fight with us against them, so we will end up with the same deal as everyone else.

Spikymike

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on December 22, 2011

No real suprises here I suppose.

On the LGPS:

Yes - no guarantees after 2014 it seems.

Reference in the timetable to 'consultations' by both parties but not to any early member voting.

No reference to the inflation proofing issue - the CPI factor is already imposed on pension payouts now.

Does anyone know how 'career average' is worked out? Couldn't find anything useful on the UNISON website. Surely not on actual money wages paid at different times in a 'career' that would be a big reduction for many?

The 'flexibillity' principle looks like offering lower pensions for lower contributions?

Rob Ray

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on December 22, 2011

Surely not on actual money wages paid at different times in a 'career' that would be a big reduction for many?

Fraid so, the private sector's been doing it for years, usually alongside a switch from RPI to CPI inflation.

Was just re-reading this 2006 piece while I was trying to find an original reference I'd used a few years back, fuck me it's been a sharp fall :(.

Steven.

12 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on December 22, 2011

Rob Ray

Surely not on actual money wages paid at different times in a 'career' that would be a big reduction for many?

Fraid so, the private sector's been doing it for years, usually alongside a switch from RPI to CPI inflation.
.

Actually Rob that's incorrect. It is adjusted for inflation - at the moment anyway!

Apparently in the past, even people staying on the same grade have over the past few decades seen their wage double in real terms, taking inflation into account (which sounds doubtful to me but still), so switching to career average would have had a detrimental effect on them.

However, for at least the past decade there have been below inflation pay increases in much of the public sector (especially in local government, where I work) so calculating a career average salary using CPI inflation would actually benefit me and lots of other people who don't get promoted.

However, I'm sure they will later find a way of changing that, probably by using an even lower measure of inflation at some point in the future.

lettersjournal

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lettersjournal on December 24, 2011

Steven.

In terms of saying that you won't be a member of the union anymore, while letters is a troll, he does have a point here. The unions have done stuff like this before (indeed, this is their standard behaviour). So why be a member before, but not after?

Hi, why am I a troll? I am responding to the article.

This blog post is a good example of naive unionism: in complaining about 'selling out', lack of democracy and the bad actions of leader it actually affirms unions as institutions. That is, it is no different than the articles appearing in every leftist magazine arguing why unions ought to do this or that, when, of course, they never do (and even if they' did, it would't matter).

That libcom would put this article on the front page, despite it replacing a critique of capitalist social relations and institutions with a shallow moralism, is telling of the conflict on this site between populism and radicalism. Actually, all the posts in this particular blog follow a similar formula: moral outrage at an institution doing the only thing that it can do. The implied politics are somewhere in the realm of the SWP... basically, outrage that we don't live in the 1970s.

Did we really know that? The offer that you are about to sign up to was offered before we even went on strike, so what has striking achieved? Absolutely nothing is what it has achieved. You have shown nothing but contempt for the 2,000,000 workers who went on strike, and lost a day’s pay that most of them could ill afford, when you were going to sign up to a deal anyway.

I think N30 was a farce, not a strike (many had to work double the day before or after), and I don't think the unions can be reformed. The critique of unions (and other institutions) shouldn't be set aside because something is happening or one wants to be more popular.

What leverage is achieved with a one day "strike"? None. Just like the "general strike" in the Bay Area, it was a symbolic protest, and of course the unions were going to sign up to a deal anyway. That is what they do. They actually cannot do anything other than sign up to deals. To expect otherwise would be like expecting the police to stop arresting or brutalizing people.

Spikymike

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Spikymike on December 26, 2011

letters was right to criticise the general tone in the original text which did at least suggest some expectation of the Unions and the N30 strike which frankly was never present.

But we are still entitled to be angry at the Union 'leaders' and 'officials' and their lies whilst trying to underrmine the faith in them which many of our fellow workers still unfortunately have.

And participation in the N30 token strike by pro-revolutionaries could still be justified from a tactical position - though the form of that participation might be open to more criticism.