London Unison has seen the highest surge in recruitment in September for over five years, with nearly 3,000 new members. The reason: pensions. Dozens of branch meetings briefing members on the pensions dispute have been held in hospitals, local authorities and universities. One hospital had to stagger meetings back-to-back due to the demand, with rooms overflowing, non-members joining and new stewards forthcoming.
Photo: London Unison
Unison has one sole focus at present: delivering the Yes vote to support the campaign. Over 1.75 million leaflets have been issued, with 700,000 members texted or emailed. With 1.1 million Unison ballot papers, Electoral Reform Services needed an emergency import of paper as stocks in Britain were exhausted.
Unite, GMB, the National Union of Teachers, Unison and smaller health professional bodies and other teaching unions are now all balloting. Immense logistical difficulties are being tackled on a daily basis to try to ensure the ballot is deemed legal. Significant numbers of members whose union membership records are not accurate have sadly been withdrawn from the ballot.
But the challenge will come on 30 November when those prevented from supporting the strike by legal shenanigans will be faced with a simple choice: cross or don’t cross the picket lines – and if you have to cross then don’t touch the work of striking colleagues. Getting the records correct (and the slightest change deems members not eligible) will be an immense on-going challenge to all union stewards, members and organisers.
Support from non-striking unions and professional organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing (though quite a few nurse members are said to want to be called on to strike) and the British Medical Association will be demonstrated in acts of solidarity at lunchtime workplace rallies at hospitals and health centres across the country.
The proposed £4 billion tax on public sector pensions will be followed by similar tax moves on other pension schemes. Those in outsourced and privatised comparable schemes will be targeted next if these increases in contributions are not stopped. An estimated £20 billion would be raised by a minuscule tax on bank transactions if this government seriously decided to tackle the deficit caused by the banks’ criminal greed. Highly unlikely considering the number of ex-bankers in government! ■