Unison’s local government service group executive is recommending a yes vote in the ballot which starts next week on the government’s pensions deal.
The “new” plan still means public sector workers having to work longer, pay more and get less.
We hope that Unison members will vote against the deal and step up the fight to defeat this government.
Unison branches do have the right to recommend a no vote. The ballot runs from 31 July to 24 August.
The right in the union is trying to claim that those service group executive members who voted against the deal are trampling on democracy.
That ignores the reality of what happened—as brought home forcefully by a report from London executive member John McLoughlin.
John writes, “The local government service group executive (SGE) met on Thursday 19 July to consider a recommendation on the proposals for the local government pension scheme from April 2014.
“Before the meeting SGE reps were provided with a report on the results of the consultation with branches. The regional head of local government offered to meet with SGE members but in the event was not able to.
“I suggested that the results of the consultation should have gone to a regional local government executive, or at least the chair and vice chair, so that SGE members could be fully informed of views expressed through our democratic lay structures.
“I consulted with the chair and vice chair of the regional local government committee and agreed that a proper interpretation of the result of the consultation would be to vote for a recommendation to reject the proposals.
“This was based on a number of factors:
The consultation report revealed a majority of those members who took part in consultation voted to reject 1009-724, that is 58 percent of those who expressed a preference.
In terms of branches, 12 were reported for rejection and 9 for acceptance. But this does not give any weighting to the wide disparities in size of branches. The biggest branch replying for example has 4,457 members and the smallest only 22. The number of members in branches voting for rejection is 21,655 compared to 17,090 in branches voting for rejection—again a clear majority.
In order to avoid either small branches counting as more than their weight in membership, or a few people in big branches exercising disproportionate influence on the number of members actually participating through a block vote, the practice in consultations on pay has been to use the votes of those actually participating across branches as above.
At least two branch votes were excluded. Southwark did a late return but it was known in time to be reported to SGE reps and I was aware of it. Islington was not included for reasons not known, as the branch reported that they did their return in time. When included their return increases the majority for rejection to 1330-784, so that 63 percent of those who expressed a preference were for rejection.
“I was unable to attend the regional local government executive meeting on 28 June. But the chair made me aware that a vote there expressed a view in favour of rejection of the proposals.
“Therefore it is clear that a majority of members in the region expressing a view are for rejection. The membership of branches who voted for rejection represented a majority of those participating. The relevant lay bodies supported rejection and the lay officials shared the interpretation of the result.
“On this basis I was one of the six delegates on the local government SGE who voted against recommending acceptance of the proposals.
“One very big concern that should be shared by all is the very low level of engagement of members in the process—under 5 percent of participating branches and not much more than 3 percent overall.
“I believe that this is primarily a product of the long interlude since 30 November and that many members may believe that the pensions issue has already been settled.
“We will have a very difficult task to try to get a decent turnout in the ballot which will now run from 31 July to 24 August, during the peak summer holiday period and in London of course during the Olympics.
“I hope that whatever our views we can all work together to get as big a turnout as possible—which will only be assisted by a full and vigorous debate about the merits and demerits of the proposals.”