Thursday 10 February 2011

Let's negotiate from a position of strength - prepare to ballot on pensions

Talks are ongoing between public sector unions about how to respond to the Government's threat to pensions.

The joint unions Public Sector Liaison Group meeting on Monday 14th will discuss whether the Government is offering serious negotiations over public sector pensions - as well as discussing preparations for joint action to defend them.

George Osborne has now said that final decisions about increased contributions (threatened to be about an extra £100 per month for teachers) will be postponed until June, rather than being fixed in the Budget in March. However, the proposed £2.8 billion savings from that extra 'stealth tax' on public sector workers is apparently still to be announced in March. Unless that is withdrawn, the offer of talks will be worthless  - unions would just be left to agree exactly how that pay cut will be applied to their union members!

The NUT does not accept that any contribution increase is needed - the cost of teacher pensions is already set to fall and no valuation has been carried out to justify any increased contributions. This is just a tax on teachers to pay for the bankers' bailout and bonuses.

The NUT Executive voted last term that we would start a ballot for strike action before Easter. Our next meeting on February 24th will now have to decide our next steps in light of the discussions at the PSLG and reports from any discussions with the Government.

However, as I pointed out at the Executive meeting today, I don't think there needs to be any contradiction between meeting with Ministers to exchange views and, at the same time, preparing a ballot for action to strengthen our hand in any negotiations.

NUT Divisions and reps should certainly be making sure that their membership lists are up-to-date and that home addresses are correctly updated.

We have to quickly ascertain whether the Government are serious about any offer of negotiations. That would have to mean the Government withdrawing any savings proposals from the March Budget. It would also have to mean the Government withdrawing its threat to introduce the indexation of pensions from RPI to CPI by April 1st.

If they're not serious, then unions must respond swiftly with co-ordinated strike action.

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