National strike action to defend our pensions: All out on 30 November

Letter from George Binette, Camden UNISON Branch Secretary, to all members:

Dear Member,

In the wake of decisive votes in our national strike ballots, UNISON’s Service Group Executives for Local Government, Health and Higher Education, along with the union’s Industrial Action Committee, have authorised national strike action in every Service Group balloted.

Contrary to press reports Danny Alexander’s 2 November statement in Parliament was not a new offer, but only a statement of ‘principles’ concerning future public sector pension schemes. UNISON remains willing to discuss any offer based on Danny Alexander’s statement, but at present we are still faced with:

Paying More: A huge hike in pension contributions – rising towards 10% for most members
Working Longer: An increase in the age at which you can access your pension for all those born after 1 April 1962
Getting Less: A lower value Career Average Scheme, along with reduced annual uprating

As UNISON’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, has stated now is the time to step up the pressure!

Results have since come in from the other main unions with members covered by our pension scheme (the LGPS), the GMB and Unite. Both unions returned overwhelming ‘yes’ votes on turnouts slightly higher than our own. In schools the National Association of Head Teachers have just returned a 78% ‘yes’ vote in its first ever strike ballot, while the NUT and ATL are committed to action, almost certainly joined by the NASUWT. College lecturers in the UCU will be joining UNISON members on strike. We are now on the brink of united action across huge swathes of the public sector workforce.

All members are expected to take part in the action.  Taking annual leave, working from home or attending a training course means you are not part of the action. For further information on this point please contact the Branch Office. We will be picketing numerous buildings, with a concentration on the Town Hall complex, Bidborough House, Cressy Road and the Crowndale along with other strategic sites such as the York Way transport depot. Please discuss picketing with your local steward or contact the Branch Office.

March and Rally
Assemble 12 noon – 1.00 PM, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2

After a rally outside the Town Hall (Judd Street, WC1) there will be a London-wide joint union march and rally taking our message on pension rights within shouting distance of Parliament. We want as many members, their families, friends and service users to take part. More information about the day will be available from the branch office.

Exemptions
There are no automatic exemptions from the strike call. Applications for must be made to the Branch Office. Exemptions will only normally be granted for:

•    Pregnant women who have already given notice of their dates of absence and could suffer a detriment.
•    Members who are due to attend court and could be liable to contempt proceedings for failure to appear, though numerous courts could be closed by strike action.
•    Unlike previous strikes, UNISON will not grant automatic exemptions for those in their last year of service. Given the ongoing pay freeze the strike will not affect the final salary calculation for the vast majority of people. In addition, the outcome of the dispute affects them, not least because of the Government’s move away from the Retail Price Index. Members can also buy back the lost day’s pension contribution by contacting the pensions section (Manager: Mike Bezzi on 020 7974 6042) – although for most people the potential loss would amount to less than £1.50 for the year.
•    We will not grant exemptions for those taking redundancy – strike days do not affect the calculation of normal pay for redundancy.

Management may apply for exemptions for certain services on grounds of danger to life and limb. We have told management that we would not expect any request beyond services we would provide on an emergency basis every day of the year e.g. a simple test might be “do we provide this service on Xmas day”. We would also not expect any requests for exemptions where there are staff who will be working and could provide emergency cover.

Hardship Pay

UNISON does not offer strike pay for a national strike. The branch will, however, consider making payments to members suffering genuine hardship, which will have to be documented.

Strike Together to Protect our Pensions

UNISON asks you to stand with your union and stand up for your pension rights:

•    Support the strike
•    Join your local picket line
•    Join the march and rally.

Yours sincerely,

George Binette, Branch Secretary
Camden UNISON
59 Phoenix Road, Brill Place
London, WC1H 9JE
TEL: 020 7974 1633/Website: http://www.camdenunison.org.uk

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