A packed special Camden UNISON branch meeting on 3 October overwhelming backed a motion moved by branch secretary, George Binette, to defend the local government pension scheme and strike with more than two dozen other unions on 30th November.
Jon Rogers, UNISON national executive member for the London region, listed the attacks on the pension scheme, especially the 50% hike in the contribution rates, the increase in the retirement age, and the switch from the pension being uprated by the Retail Price Index to the lower Consumer Price Index. None of these so-called reforms could be justified. The 2007 pensions settlement had ensured the scheme’s long-term security. He highlighted the fact that none of the £900 million in additional contributions would go to the pension scheme, but instead to the Treasury as it seeks to erase the deficit created by the bank bail-outs.
He encouraged everyone to vote ‘yes’, arguing we have a good chance of success against a divided coalition.
Andrew Baisley, Branch Secretary, Camden National Union of Teachers emphasised public sector workers were ‘all in this together’. He highlighted the Government’s drive to continually increase the pensionable age. He was certain most schools nationally would be closed on 30 November causing massive disruption. He looked forward to NUT and UNISON members being on strike alongside one another.
George Binette then moved the motion on pensions. This was an opportunity to turn rhetoric into reality. He asked all those in the hall to persuade others to vote ‘yes’ when they received their ballot papers.
He warned that politicians would lie over the coming weeks. He exposed the hypocrisy of private sector chief executives who were closing down or worsening pensions schemes for their employees whilst amassing giant pension pots for themselves.
From the floor, Mandy Berger (co-convenor HASC) remarked that the cabinet was full of millionaires who had no idea of what life was like for the majority. She had been part of the 35,000 strong demonstration outside the Tory party conference in Manchester the previous day. She also drew attention to the little reported protests against the bankers starting in Wall Street and spreading across the United States, after New York City police had pepper-sprayed peaceful demonstrators and arrested more than 700 marching across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Toby Deans (a member in Housing) also pointed to the US example and suggested that the branch should be seeking to make members aware of it.
Sarah Friday, branch health & safety officer, emphasised the need to recruit and asked everyone to persuade at least two people to join UNISON. Peter Ainsley, Publicity Officer, said the coalition had no mandate for the attack on pensions and publicised the meeting at the Crowndale Centre on Monday 10 October to plan the co-ordination of activities between unions and other campaigning bodies in the run-up to 30 November.
Kiran Patel moved the question be put, which the meeting agreed.
George Binette briefly replied to the debate emphasising the need to recruit, noting that there were many more people in the Council’s pension scheme than in Camden UNISON.
The motion was put to the vote and carried with none voting against.
You can read the full text of the motion here.