UNISON to call national demonstration on pensions

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‘THE threat we made to the government still stands – revoke the order or there will be a strike on pensions,’ UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan told the union’s National Delegate Conference in Glasgow yesterday.

Moving Motion 21, ‘UNISON’s Pension Campaign’, she insisted: ‘Every member in every branch in every region has a part to play. The key to a victory on pensions is unity.’

Motion 21 called on the NEC to: ‘A. Continue the campaign to defend and improve public sector schemes, working in coordination with the service groups and other trade unions including further industrial action ballots if necessary and

‘B: Continue to develop a strategy to fully integrate pensions into UNISON’s bargaining agenda, and

‘C: Campaign for the introduction of compulsory employer pension contributions, set at a minimum level of 10 per cent, and for better safeguards to prevent the unilateral closure of final salary schemes, and

‘D: Campaign for the reform of the basic state pension, including the restoration of the earnings link.’

In the debate Yorkshire and Humberside Region delegate, Wendy Nicholls warned: ‘If the government have got any sense they will come at us one union at a time. We must not be allowed to fight one at a time; we must fight them every union together.’

Mandy Burgess, from Greater London UNISON Regional Committee, added: ‘This is of course very similar to what happened on Good Friday in 1925, the year before the 1926 General Strike.

‘The government used that time for preparing for the fight to come. The trade unions did not. We must learn the lessons of 1926 there must be no separate pensions deals, we must stand united across all the public sector, there must be up to five million workers striking together.’

Tim Snell, of Glasgow City UNISON, warned: ‘This union and the action of the other trade unions forced Prescott into a climbdown before the election, but the order for revoking has yet to be put before Parliament, a promise has yet to be kept, we cannot trust this New Labour Government.’

Tony Phillips, from London Fire Authority UNISON, added: ‘I think the appointment of David Blunkett as Minister for Pensions is a clear signal that an attack is on the way, we should call upon activists from every union affected to coordinate the campaign.’

Whilst Motion 21 ‘UNISON’s Pension Campaign’ was carried overwhelmingly by delegates Amendment 21.09 was successfully added to it.

It called for UNISON to ‘Work with other unions and pensioners organisations for a national demonstration to protect public sector pensions, restore the link between state pensions and earnings, and to compel private employers to provide decent final salary pension schemes.’

General Secretary Dave Prentis intervened in the debate to caution: ‘If we need a national demonstration we’ll organise it at the right time. What we want is you back in your branches organising for the fight of your life.’

The mover of Amendment 21.09, Andrew Berry, from Islington UNISON said: ‘We welcome this statement from Dave Prentis that we can expect a revocation in the next few weeks but if there is no revocation we must ballot at that point and not wait any longer.’

Prentis’ caution was rejected by delegates who voted overwhelmingly to back Amendment 21.09.

Amendment 21.09 stressed in addition: ‘Conference agrees that its opposition to increasing to 65 the age of entitlement to an unreduced pension is not negotiable.’

Amendment 21.06 calling for: ‘The restoration of the earnings link at least at the level it would have been at if the original link had not been broken’, proposed by St Mary’s Paddington Health Branch, was also carried and added to the substantive motion.