ON the very day that the public sector union Unison announced a massive vote in favour of strike action to defend pensions, the leadership of the unions signalled their willingness to sell the struggle out and cave in to the coalition government’s determination to drive their members’ pensions below the poverty line.
In a statement issued by the TUC Public Service Liaison Group, which is co-ordinating the negotiations with the government, they stated:
At the meeting earlier today, Danny Alexander and Francis Maude outlined a number of new proposals to the TUC negotiating team, including an improvement in the proposed accrual rates within the major public service schemes compared to their previous position, and new proposed transitional protections for those closest to retirement. They also indicated a long-term commitment to any agreed reforms not being reopened within the next 25 years.’
Whilst stressing that these ‘new proposals’ had arrived too late in the day for the co-ordinated national strike action on November 30 to be called off, these bureaucrats were over the moon at the prospect of a few minor crumbs being offered that would enable them to cave in with the semblance of winning concessions.
In fact, the Tory-LibDem coalition has not conceded one iota on the plan to destroy public sector pensions.
Still in place is the determination to drive down the value of pensions by implementing a 50% increase in contributions, replacing the final salary pension with the much lower career average, and linking pensions to the Consumer Price Index instead of the previous link to the retail Price Index – once again the CPI is substantially lower than the RPI.
On top of all this, workers will face increases in the retirement age to 66 years.
The prospect of working for longer, experiencing massive cuts in take-home pay on top of the wage cuts or wage freeze already imposed by the government for much less pension at the end of the day, has driven public sector workers into an open confrontation with the coalition.
Such is the hatred and determination of their members not to see their pensions sacrificed in order to keep the banks in profit, that the TUC has been forced to call for united action, involving up to four million workers, for November 30.
With no stomach for a fight with the government, the leaders of the unions are now grasping at any straw that will enable them to call the whole thing off.
Compared to the cuts they are proposing these are not so much ‘concessions’, as the TUC claims, but a contemptuous dismissal of the trade union negotiators.
As for the ‘commitment’ that this deal would be binding for 25 years, this is an intolerable condition that even the most craven reformist union leader would have baulked at in the past: to commit their members to a 25-year deal is unthinkable.
While the trade union bureaucracy is desperate to do a deal that will avoid a showdown between its members and the government, it is equally clear that the coalition has their measure and is relying on them to do precisely that.
Hence the statement from ministers that the November 30 strike is not a ‘deal breaker’, that they will not break off talks because of industrial action.
Far from being a springboard to further mobilisations this union leadership intends to wind down the industrial action after the one-day strike.
This treachery must be confronted and defeated.
The demand must be for an all-out general strike in defence of jobs, wages and pensions, not to bring pressure on this government but to kick it out and replace it with a workers government.
There must also be a huge effort to build up the alternative revolutionary leadership in the trade unions, capable of leading the struggle for workers power and socialism, and willing and able to remove the current reformist trade union leaders who are in favour of capitalism lasting for ever.