Friday, 9 December 2011

'Hope for the best but plan for the worst'

"We will hope for the best, but plan for the worst," UNISON's ruling NEC declared today as it assessed the effect of the 30 November pensions strike.

The day of action was "an absolutely fantastic day, the proudest day of my union life," general secretary Dave Prentis told the meeting in London.

And it had a clear effect: already serious negotiations have resumed and will continue into the new year, after ministers withdrew their deadline demanding agreement by the end of this year.

Talks started this week in the main pension schemes - NHS, local government, civil service and teachers' - and are continuing through December and into the new year, and the negotiators are co-ordinating among themselves, while more central negotiations take place with the Treasury and Cabinet Office.

The TUC public service unions will meet on 15 December to assess the day of action and look at the next steps.

But at the same time, the NEC agreed, UNISON needs to build on the momentum of 30 November, keep the union prepared for any further action if necessary, and keep members - especially those who joined in the run-up to the dispute - involved in the campaign.

All the relevant service group executives will meet in early January to be updated on negotiations and plan for any future industrial action.

The NEC called on regions to

  • maintain high active profiles through December and January;
  • call meetings of key activists in service groups to consult on possibilities for further action.

And it urged branches and activists to keep members informed and engaged in discussions to prepare for any offers that might come out of the renewed negotiations and prepared for further, stronger, action if necessary.

Recruitment in the weeks leading up to the strike hit record levels, the NEC heard, with the union recording the highest November recruitment figures in its history.

The meeting also heard a warning of a "major explosions about pay" following Chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement, which included limiting pay increases to 1% following the current pay freeze.

Mr Prentis warned that this would see members' net pay reduced by 20% in real terms from two years ago.

"We've got to gear up this union to deal with pay as we geared up to deal with pensions."

The NEC also:
  • agreed to send a message of support to Unilever workers who have voted for strike action over attacks on their final salary pension scheme;
  • received an update on the campaign to defend the NHS, focussing on the continuing campaign against the government's Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through the House of Lords and urged support for the Big NHS Weekend activity;
  • agreed the union's Link to a document on this siteobjectives and priorities for 2012;
  • agreed financial planning and budgets for the year ahead, including a continued fighting fund, and received the union's accounts for the nine months to September;
  • started planning for the 2012 national delegate conference.

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