Special Update           Home

25th May 2006


Talks have been taking place and there is a Negotiations Newsletter attached.  We would draw your attention to the ‘New Look’ Scheme contained within the Newsletter and we are seeking your views on its contents.  The proposals, do however, fall well short of what we are seeking. 


Below is a reproduced report from Glen Kelly, Local Government NEC member and on the Service Group Executive (SGE) which calls for the reinstatement of Industrial Action. 


Please read both the ‘New Look” Scheme and Glen’s article and let us know your views.  We need to know if you are prepared to take further action to secure full protection of your current Pension Rights or would you accept the ‘New Look’ Scheme despite the shortfall. 


Please email your views to branchoffice@croydonunison.co.uk by Monday 5th June 2006 at the latest.






As you may be aware the Service Group Executive took place yesterday where we were given an update on the current state of play regarding the negotiations. 


Obviously everyone would be hoping that the employers and the Government had caved into our demands and we had won our dispute, unfortunately nothing could be further from the Truth. 


What we want and what’s on offer 


The formal position of the Local Government Conference last year was NOT to accept any detrimental change to the pension scheme, After the PSF deal the General Secretary announced that our dispute is about winning as the same deal as the other trades unions secured i.e. lifetime protection (although no decision has ever been taken to change the union policy at any SGE meeting).


At the meeting of the SGE in April the strike action (wrongly in my opinion) was suspended on the basis of the massive step forward of securing “a joint framework for talks”. 


The majority of SGE members bought into suspension of the strikes on the basis that we now had a commitment from the employers that 50% of the savings could be used for protection and improvements to the scheme and the employers were now admitting that this was more than enough to meet “our” minimum demands and beyond.  The majority were prepared to put their faith in talks alone delivering for the members after all it was said “we could always start the strike back up”.


A month on, what have the talks delivered?


Have the employers given their agreement to even matching the PSF deal and offered lifetime protection? ……NO!!


Has anything firmly been offered? ……. NO.


The Government have agreed to consult on some amendments to the regulations.  As they stand they would only improve the protection to all those exiting members who are over the age of 50 and a half. 


That means that any exiting member of the scheme under the age of 50 and half would lose the right to 85 yr rule and effectively have a retirement age of 65 or lose up to 33% of their pension if they want to go at 60. (The average age of a UNISON member is 47!)


Frankly the employers and Government are taking the micky out of us.  The Teaching Unions have secured not only the right to retire at 60 for all existing members but a retirement age of 62 1/2 for new starters!


A new teacher would have a better deal than tens of thousands of our existing members under these proposals!


UNION strategy – what is it!


When asked what was our strategy for forcing more from the employers. We were told by the head of local government that…..”the actuaries were meeting and working on the figures”, “we were seeking leave for a judicial review”, which might overturn the scrapping the 85year rule and “the negotiating team were to continuing to….negotiate!”  And that was it!


In a twenty minute presentation to the SGE’s there was not a single mention of an industrial action strategy and  “Strike” word appeared to have been lost from her vocabulary.


Now I have no problem about using accountants, lawyers and the courts to back up our case, BUT as an auxiliary not our sole strategy. To put our faith in them and a high court judge delivering in our favour is naïve in the extreme. 


On the basis of this I proposed that we should lift the suspension on the strike action and name the days for National industrial action to take place.


Incredibly a layer of SGE members tried to suggest that the Special SGE could not take any decisions!!  And they had no notice of it (it was pointed out that this never stopped them voting to suspend the action at the last meeting!). Fortunately this was defeated on a vote.


We then debated my strike proposal and again a significant layer argued against it, ranging from “there was no mood for further action” (i.e. wave a white flag and give in now!) to waiting for the outcome of the judicial review!  (If we get the review which is not guaranteed, we were told that there would not be a hearing till August!!). 


Unfortunately had it been pushed to a vote I am not confident that we would have secured a majority and our members will be sat around waiting till August? 


This was at least avoided by the Scottish delegate saying they felt they needed time to consult their region and they proposed a deferral on my proposition to the next meeting of the SGE on the 8th June. This was then carried.  


Current Danger


Having lost some momentum from the strike in March, the talks continue with no pressure on the government and the employers and we sit waiting fingers crossed for the outcome of a judicial review.  If that then fails what then? Are we then asked to start action again in August (five months after the last strike)! 


Worse than that even is there is already talk of having to re ballot the members on strike action, despite it being completely unnecessary.  The cynic in me says that some may hope that after a five month delay and some minor concessions being offered, that members will have lost faith with the union and vote no for further action and de facto we end up accepting a bad deal. Even if this is not the conscious intend on the part of some leaders there is a real risk of us sleeping walking into a historic defeat.            


We must not allow this to happen, We should remember that the biggest recruitment in our history was in March, we have had the biggest strike in our history, that was achieved not by accountants or lawyers but by a mass mobilisation of the membership, that is where we must put our faith in winning this dispute.


Pickets outside Taberner House

Picture courtesy of Croydon Guardian