Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Save North Somerset Youth Services

UNITE the Union invite you to have your say about why you feel it is so important that the youth service continues to be provided by North Somerset Council. On February the 11th at the Italian Gardens Weston super Mare from 12pm – 3pm

Each youth club and supporter will be given a slot to stand up in speaker’s corner and let the public know why they want to save North Somerset Youth Service and why youth workers and youth clubs are so important.

Please let them know if you would like to be involved.

Email nsomersetunite@gmail.com with your details and someone will contact you.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

UNISON warns of even deeper cuts if North Somerset Council accept Council Tax Freeze Grant

A shortened version of this press release appeared in this week's Weston Mercury. Probably won't make us popular with the public, but we need to start a debate at least.

North Somerset UNISON, which represents public service workers across the district has warned of even deeper cuts if North Somerset Council accept the government’s council tax freeze grant for 2012/13. There are a number of councils across the country of all political colours, including Conservative administrations in Surrey, Chelmsford and Peterborough, who are rejecting the freeze grant because it will create black holes in their budgets for future years, and because it’s the only way to protect vital public services, as central government slashes their funding.

The council tax freeze grant is not a good deal for councils for a number of reasons. First as a grant equivalent to 2.5% of council tax income it is well under inflation, which currently stands at between 4 and 5%. This means that councils’ income isn’t keeping up with their costs. Second, it is only funded for one year, which means councils will have a hole in their budget for next year and every year after that. In North Somerset’s case this means that every year from 2013 onwards they will have £2.3 million less to spend on services. The situation will get even worse from 2015 because the funding for last year’s council tax freeze drops out, and as a result North Somerset’s budget hole will be almost £5 million a year. And this is all on top of the £50 million of cuts that are already underway in North Somerset.

The problem is that the one off income from the freeze grant only stays in their base budget for 1 year, whereas an actual council tax increase stays in their base budget for every single year. The government have made it even more difficult for councils to provide services to their residents by imposing a 3.5% cap on council tax increases and stipulating that any increase above that will require councils to hold a local referendum - with all the costs associated with that. But if for instance the council increased council tax by 3.5% this would not entail a referendum, and it would also increase their budget for the following year by £3.2 million, at an extra cost of £3.35 a month for the average council tax payer. A similar increase every year for the following 2 years would significantly improve their base budget by almost £10 million. Councillors could then think about saving services, and those North Somerset residents who have been campaigning recently to have street lights turned back on, or to save youth services may have good ideas about what they can spend this extra money on.

On the other hand, if North Somerset Council accept the council tax freeze grant it will mean much higher council tax increases in the future, or alternatively even deeper cuts. For instance, North Somerset residents are currently being consulted on reductions in library opening hours. If the council accept the freeze grant then it is likely that in future they will be consulted on library closures instead. The alternative would be much greater council tax increases to save services, as well as the costs of a referendum. Local government minister Eric Pickles has said that councils have a moral duty to accept the council tax freeze grant, but Mr Pickles and the Coalition government also have a moral duty to ensure that funding to councils is at a level at which councils are able to provide services. A rejection of the council tax freeze grant will send a clear message to Westminster that North Somerset Council, as a low-funded authority, cannot provide essential services on the current levels of government funding, and that increasing council tax is the only way to protect vital public services to our most vulnerable citizens.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Youth will Rock you - We are the Future!

Hear a quick blast of the young people singing outside last night's North Somerset Council meeting about 37 minutes into BBC Radio Bristol's breakfast show for the next 7 days. Followed by a discussion on cuts to services in North Somerset and how these might be much less if North Somerset refused the council tax freeze grant and increased council tax by 3.5%. Click on this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00msg3x

Below is coverage of the Youth Services Protest on 17th January from the Weston Mercury, including his great video.

video


Protest - council cares more about old than young
By Tom Wright

More than 40 children and teenagers chanted songs and waved banners ahead of the full North Somerset Council meeting in a desperate bid to get their point across.

One volunteer called for the councillors to stop ‘punishing’ the younger generation for the mistakes made previously, as a £800,000 budget cut threatens to close centres across the region.

Charlie Lane, aged 18, said Tuesday’s protest outside the town hall in Weston was their third in as many months.

She said: “All the young people, as well as me, understand the cuts have to be made. But I think North Somerset Council care more about the older generation and don’t give much thought to the younger generation.

“Their generation has made the problems and they should at least sort it out.”

The protest, featuring youngsters from Weston, Portishead, Clevedon and Nailsea, was organised alongside public sector workers’ union Unison.

A spokesman for the union said: “We have serious concerns about the council’s ability to deliver services to some of the most vulnerable people in North Somerset, if further cuts are approved.

“In children and young people’s services the council are proposing another massive cut of £12million. This is a very high risk strategy.

“The council don’t set their budget until February 21st so there is still some time to campaign.

“We need to persuade North Somerset Council that there are choices to be made and there are things that they can do to lessen the impact of the cuts.”

North Somerset Council announced last year it needed to make more than £47million worth of savings over the next three years as part of the Government’s austerity measures.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

UNISON members Support Services Survey - One year on are services "quicker, better and cheaper"?

As a result of pressure from UNISON and others North Somerset Council have recently employed KPMG to undertake an independent review of the Support Services contract. The review aims to assess whether Support Services are now "quicker, better and cheaper"?

A UNISON Rep has been interviewed as part of the review and we have expressed our concerns and also submitted the full results of the survey which we asked members to complete late last year. You can download the full results of the survey at:
http://www.northsomersetunison.co.uk/%5Cdownloads%5CUNISONmembersSUpportServicessurvey.pdf

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

UNISON urge North Somerset Council to reject council tax freeze to save Services

The following is UNISON's argument put to North Somerset Council at their meeting tonight:

During this meeting you will be considering an update to the Draft Revenue Budget for the next 3 years. You will be asked to vote to accept the one year council tax freeze grant for 2012/13. We are asking you to consider our submission, which outlines the case for refusing the freeze grant this year (copies have been put on your desks), and to defer this decision until you formally approve the budget on 21st February. Our reasons are simple – you do not as yet have the full equalities impact assessments for your budget proposals. If you confirm your intention to accept the freeze grant tonight, then you will leave yourselves little room for manoeuvre in finding money to mitigate any high equalities impacts in your budget, other than use your reserves and contingency. As a result you won’t be able to meet your equalities duties, and in doing so avoid costly legal action. Initial equalities impact assessments note high impacts for services, including Adult Social Services & Housing, Children & Young People’s Services, Safer & Stronger Communities and Libraries.

Let me explain why we think you should refuse the freeze grant.

When the council froze council tax for 2011/12 you could be confident that it would not create a budget hole for the following year – this is because the government provided a grant equivalent to a 2½ % increase in council tax in each of the financial years up to 2015. BUT the freeze grant for this year is NOT a similar deal – in this case it is a one off 2½ % grant, which will create a £2.3 million hole in the budget for 2013/14. This means either you’ll have to make even more cuts or increase council tax by a much higher rate, potentially above the 3 ½% cap which will trigger a referendum (and all the costs associated with that). Your own Medium Term Financial Plan makes it clear that “given the projected deficit facing the council it is likely that council tax will need to be increased in 2013/14 and subsequent years”. In addition the 2½% freeze grant is well under inflation, which is currently running at between 4 and 5% . Accepting the freeze grant will therefore mean your base budget will keep falling in real terms.

To partially counteract the creation of a hole in your budget the November Medium Term Financial Plan suggests smoothing the effect of the grant over the next few years by only using one third of it this year, and putting the rest of it - about £1.5 million - into your reserves to use in following years. But we think that if you take this course of action you will send a clear signal to the government that despite being a low funded authority, you don’t actually need this grant, because you’re only going to be using a small amount of it this year.

You also need to take account of the fact that the government are currently proposing to calculate your future baseline funding by including the 2011/12 freeze grant, but excluding the 2012/13 freeze grant. If this year is the last time the government offers a council tax freeze grant, then refusing it, and increasing council tax by 3½% will send a message to Westminster that North Somerset Council, as a low-funded authority, cannot provide essential services on the current and future levels of government funding. As a result you will encourage Eric Pickles to increase your funding for future years.

We think that there is a good case for you to refuse the freeze grant, as some other local authorities are considering or even have done - Peterborough and Brighton we know about so far. This means that you could then increase council tax this year by 3½% without triggering the requirement to hold a referendum. This will demonstrate to both your electorate and the government that increasing council tax, and as a result your base budget, is the only way to protect vital services. It will also avoid much larger increases in future years, which otherwise would be necessary in order to recover lost income (and may also include the costs of a referendum). The alternative is even deeper cuts.

Increasing council tax would result in a significant improvement to your budget position. A 3½% increase in council tax for this year would bring in £3.2 million at an extra cost of £3.35 a month for the average council tax payer. Your base budget would then be £3.2 million greater for 2013/14. Another similar increase next year would increase your base budget by £6.4 million for 2014/15. As a result increasing council tax would wipe out your predicted shortfalls of £6.1 million. It is also our view that you could increase council tax this year by 3½% and still remain within your stated financial planning principle of being in the 20% lowest council tax authorities in southwest.

Finally, we think that councillors need to ask themselves whether they want North Somerset Council to go down in history as the second lowest council taxing authority in the southwest, or whether they want to be known as the council that did everything it could to protect vital public services?

Youth Services Protest at Council Meeting

Members of Portishead, Nailsea and other Youth Clubs protested again at the Town Hall in Weston tonight to try to stop the removal of Youth Services in North Somerset. Campaign leader Charlie Lane again spoke eloquently at the council meeting. Let's hope the councillors listen.

Here's some photos from tonight.




Pensions Updates and Cuts Meetings for North Somerset UNISON members

As negotiations on both the Local Government and NHS pensions are ongoing, as are cuts to jobs and services, we have organised the following meetings for members so that you're kept updated and involved in our campaign for decent pensions, and our fight against the cuts. Meetings arranged so far:

18th January at 12.30 pm - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

24th January at 12.30 pm - Badger House, first floor, room 2

7th February at 12.30 pm – Weston General Hospital, Waverley room

8th February at 12.30 pm - Badger House room 2

14th February at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms G08.9.10

15th February at 12.30 pm – Weston General Hospital, Academy, FF, Syndicate C

21st February at 12.30 pm - New Council Chamber, Town Hall

21st February at 5.30 pm UNISON lobby of Council budget setting meeting - we need as many members as possible to join our protest against council cuts.

23rd February at 12.30 pm - Weston General Hospital, Academy, FF, Syndicate C

28th February at 12.30 pm - Annual General Meeting - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

29th February at 12.30 pm - Annual General Meeting - Castlewood, rooms G08.9.10

1st March at 12.30 pm - Weston General Hospital, Academy, FF, Syndicate C

6th March at 12.30pm - Weston General Hospital, Waverley room

8th March at 12.30 pm - Badger House, First Floor, room 2

20th March at 12.30 pm – New Council Chamber, Town Hall

21st March at 12.30 pm – Castlewood, rooms G08.9.10

22nd March at 12.30 pm – Weston General Hospital, Waverley room

27th March at 12.30 pm – Weston General Hospital, Waverley room

4th April at 12.30 pm – Badger House, First Floor, room 2

11th April at 12.30 pm – New Council Chamber, Town Hall

19th April at 12.30 pm – Castlewood, room G08.9.10

Sunday, 15 January 2012

UNISON demonstration at North Somerset Council meeting - 17th January

Members of North Somerset UNISON will be lobbying and speaking at North Somerset Council’s meeting on 17th January, where councillors will discuss their budget proprosals for 2012 to 2015. The Council intend to make cuts of £50 million between 2011 and 2015, with £17.5 million of cuts already approved and underway.

We have serious concerns about the council’s ability to deliver services to some of the most vulnerable people in North Somerset, if further cuts are approved. We are particularly worried by the proposal of a massive £14 million cut from services provided to elderly and disabled people, amounting to a quarter of the budget for Adult Social Services. Last year North Somerset Council came out 7th from bottom out of 152 local authorities in a survey commissioned by the disability charity Scope, which assessed the impact of local authority cuts to services for disabled children and adults. Further cuts will make these statistics even worse. The council’s budget also contains proposals to cut the services provided to people suffering domestic abuse, services to prevent anti-social behaviour, reoffending, and homelessness – all of which will have huge impacts for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

In Children and Young People’s Services the council are proposing another massive cut of £12 million, which is a third of the budget for children and young people. The cuts, already underway, involve focusing on the 300 families in North Somerset who will be assessed as needing the most support – other families will barely get a look in. There will also be a reduction in numbers of already over-worked social workers and social work managers. This is a very high risk strategy, but it is also a false economy, as there will be little early intervention and preventative work done, which will simply cost the council more in the long run. In addition North Somerset Youth Services will cease to exist. 60 part-time youth workers will lose their jobs, and youth clubs will close, unless other organisations are willing to take them on. Even if town and parish councils take over running youth clubs the limited funding available means that these services will not be sustainable into the future.

As a trade union we are of course also concerned by the loss of 280 full-time posts, equating to about 400 to 500 people who will lose, and are already losing, their livelihoods. This will not only impact on the council’s ability to deliver services, but will also have a serious economic impact – indeed the impact of public sector job cuts is already taking its toll, with Weston super Mare seeing the 14th largest increase in unemployment in the country. Council workers are also on a 3 year pay freeze, and the council’s budget contains proposals to cut the pay of some of its lowest paid workers. Public sector job losses and pay cuts also have knock on effects in the private sector, as public sector workers no longer have income to spend in the local economy, and businesses suffer as a result. All you have to do is walk around Weston town centre to see the amount of shops, which are now lying empty. A 25% reduction to the workforce of the council, which is still the district’s largest local employer, will have further serious implications for the local economy, and this is made even worse by the impact of cuts in other public sector bodies in North Somerset, such as the NHS and police force.

We will be lobbying the council meeting at the town hall from 5.30 pm on 17th January, where we’ll be joined by young people from Youth Clubs throughout North Somerset. We urge anyone in North Somerset who will be affected by the cuts to come to the meeting and make their feelings known to the council. The council don’t set their budget until 21st February so there is still some time. We need to persuade North Somerset Council that there are choices to be made, and there are things that they can do to lessen the impact of the cuts.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Public Sector Pensions - write to your MP and councillor

While negotiations on pensions go on let's keep up the pressure by all UNISON members writing to their MPs and councillors.

You can find contact details for MPs and councillors here: http://www.writetothem.com/

All you have to do is put in your postcode. If you can't find your councillor there go to the website of your local council - councillors should be listed there, or phone them up and ask. Councillors are often listed in local phone directories as well.

For members of the Local Government Pension Scheme:

For general infomation follow this link: http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/lgps.asp

This link takes you to a model letter to send to your councillor: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/Model_Letter%20to_Councillors_and_LeaderCampaign5.doc but you can add your own personal views and tell them how it will affect you and your family.

This link takes you to a model letter to send to your MP:
http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/Model_Letter%20to_MPsCampaign5.doc and again you can add your own personal views

For members of the NHS Pension scheme:

I'm afraid there isn't currently a model letter specifically for NHS pensions, but you can write your own. To help you there's lots of infomation here: http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/healthcare.asp and you can also find more information in previous posts on this blog, and at http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/protectour.asp

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Pensions Not Poverty Public Meeting - 14th February

The National Pensioners Convention Western Region are holding a public meeting on 14th February at 11 am in the Council Chamber, Promenade, Cheltenham. All are welcome.

State, private & public pensioners demand Fair Pensions for All

We are all under attack - be part of the fight back!

Speakers include:

Neil Duncan-Jordan, National Pensioners Convention

Nigel Costley, Secretary, South West TUC

Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham

Further details from B Jones 01242 230235

Website: http://npcuk.org/

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

UNISON accepts Local Govt Pensions framework and NHS Pensions Heads of Agreement

Today UNISON Service Group Executive members met in London to decide on whether or not to accept the Local Government Pensions framework (a set of principles for further negotiation) and the NHS Heads of Agreement (the government's final offer on the NHS pension scheme). In both cases the decision was taken to accept and continue futher negotations on the pension schemes.

In the case of the Local Government pension scheme this means further negotiations including:

  • Contributions
  • Accrual rate
  • Revaluation rate
  • Protections
  • Employer cap
  • Cost management mechanism
These negotiations are due to run until April, but if they don't go our way then our ballot for industrial action remains live and further action may be called. 

In the case of the NHS pension scheme this means further negotiations including:

  • Contribution rates from 2013
  • Flexible retirement
  • Lump sum for death in service
  • Flexible contribution rates, especially to encourage opt in
  • Transfer between Public Sector schemes
  • Leavers who rejoin within 5 years
  • Future increases in State Pension Age
  • Tripartite review regarding lower retirement ages for certain NHS staff, e.g. paramedics
  • Employer cost caps

Negotiations are due to finish in January, and the final negotiated package will then be consulted on with UNISON members, who will decide whether to accept or reject. If they decide to reject then our ballot for industrial action remains live, and as a result further action may be called.

In the South West 35 out of 39 Local government branches, and 17 out of 26 Health branches voted for further negotiations.

North Somerset branch based its response on the turnout on 30th November - under half our membership took industrial action that day. Unfortunately our employers also know how few UNISON members took action. We also based our response on the very small number of email responses received early in January. As a result we advised our regional office that we thought most of our members would prefer further negotiations, with the option of further industrial action if these negotiations fail.

The branch is holding members meetings throughout January and February, and we'll book some more for March and April now, to keep members updated on the pensions issue, and to prepare for the possibility of further industrial action. We'll also book some meetings at Weston General Hospital for members there. Meetings confirmed so far are:

18th January at 12.30 pm - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

24th January at 12.30 pm – Badger House room 2

8th February at 12.30 pm - Badger House room 2

14th February at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms G08/9/10

21st February at 12.30 pm - New Council Chamber, Town Hall

My personal view is that although we achieved much through industrial action on 30th November, we did not achieve enough when assessed against our campaign against paying more, working longer and getting less - see my previous blog entry. But the only way we can achieve all these aims is if all our members are prepared to take sustained industrial action. In North Somerset this doesn't seem to be the case, and I think that's a shame. I also think we have many reasons to take action - not just pensions, but the pay freeze, pay cap, and cuts to terms and conditions, jobs and services. And again in order to protect jobs and services we need to be prepared to take action to defend them. I hope that our agreement today, based on little support from UNISON members to take further action, will not weaken us in future negotiations - not just on pensions, but pay, changes to employment law, and any future plans that the government have for the public sector.

In summary, this is where we're at:

Local government workers won’t have to pay more (at least until 2014), but they will have to work longer and they will get less when they retire (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

NHS workers earning under £26,557 full-time salary won’t pay any extra contributions (at least until 2013), while those earning above that salary will pay more from April 2012. All NHS workers will work longer, and will get less in retirement (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

Full information on the details of both the Local Government and NHS pension negotations can be found at:


Please let us know what you think - email the branch office unison@n-somerset.gov.uk or logon to our facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/ search for North Somerset Unison, or attend one of the meeting listed above and keep checking this blog for dates of further meetings.

A UNION IS ONLY AS STRONG AS ITS MEMBERS - STANDING FIRM, STANDING TOGETHER. UNITY IS STRENGTH (as it says on our banner!)

Look closely at this picture - the king's body is made up of the people. Now I'm not comparing UNISON to the monarchy but I think it's a good illustration of the power of any union, which lies in its membership.
Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Title Page (1651)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

North Somerset UNISON members can follow the branch blog by email

You can now get updates from this blog by email. All you have to do is at the top of the page on the right under the title of the blog you'll find  a box with FOLLOW BY EMAIL. Then just fill out your email address and submit. Every time there's a new blog entry you'll get an email.

We need members views on the latest Pensions proposals

I have now had time to read and fully consider the various documents issued by UNISON giving members updates on the pensions negotiations for Local Government and the NHS. I have also today attended a regional briefing. What follows are my personal views. We need all members’ views!

Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS)

What has been agreed is a set of principles and a timetable for future negotiations, subject to confirmation by UNISON members. It is not an agreement on the details of a new scheme.

What we have gained from taking Industrial Action:

  • A clear commitment to avoid contribution increases. There will be no contribution increases from April 2012. These have now been postponed until 2014, and may not be necessary at all if alternate ways of making savings can be found.
  • Retaining Admitted Body Status, which means if you transfer to the private sector you keep your pension, or at least a broadly comparable one
  • Suspension of the formal consultation with government for short-term savings - from now on we’ll be negotiating with Local government employers for a new scheme starting in 2014
  • Flexible retirement age of 55-75, with actuarial adjustments made by the link to the state retirement age
  • Protection for those within 10 years of retirement
  • Equality impact assessment at each stage
What hasn't changed:

  • There has been no movement from the government on bringing public sector retirement ages into line with the state pension age, which is increasing from 65 to 66, 67, and 68 depending on how old you are currently.
  • There has also been no movement from the government on the linking of pension increases to the CPI rather than the RPI – UNISON and other trade unions have taken this to the court of appeal.
  • The new LGPS scheme will be a career average rather than a final salary scheme, although this is not necessarily a bad thing for low paid female workers, but is dependent on decent accrual and revaluation rates.
In summary then local government workers won’t have to pay more (at least until 2014), but they will have to work longer and they will get less when they retire (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

Danny Alexander has promised that what is agreed as part of the current negotiations will last for 25 years. Can we believe him?

If UNISON members agree to these principles for negotiation, then between January and April this year UNISON will undertake further negotiations with the employers on the value, distribution and phasing of any employee contributions (I think the fact that this is even mentioned indicates that we’re not sure that there will be no increases in 2014), accrual rate, revaluation rate, transitional protections, and employer cap and collar.

UNISON members in Local Government now have to decide what the next steps should be. We have 2 choices:

Either we:

Reject the principles and timetable for further negotiation and commit to further industrial action.

Or we:

Agree to the principles and timetable for further negotiation. If these negotiations fail then we still have the option of further industrial action as we are still in dispute and our ballot is still live.

UNISON members in Local Government may want to consider whether what we have gained is enough - have we won enough ground to suspend industrial action? In addition, can we be sure that there will not be an increase in employee contributions in 2014? The government still want £900 million in savings from the LGPS - how are they going to get this £900 million if not from increased contributions? If we are not sure, then agreeing to this framework simply means postponing the inevitable. But if we agree now, when other trade unions do not, then we may find ourselves without the backing of our sister trade unions if we face the threat of increased contributions for 2014.

NHS Pension Scheme

This is not an agreement or a deal but is the government’s final offer for the NHS scheme.

What we have gained from taking Industrial Action:

  • A significant improvement in accrual rates to 1/54th
  • Those within 10 years of retirement will continue in their current existing pension scheme and will continue to be able to retire at 55, 60 or 65, depending on what scheme they’re in. There will be additional tapered protection for those within 13.5 years of retirement
  • Retaining Fair Deal, which means if you transfer to the private sector you keep your pension, or at least a broadly comparable one
  • No contribution increases in 2012 for those earning less than £26,557 full-time pay (about 48% of workforce, and 70% of UNISON membership), although there will be further discussions on increases for future years.
What hasn't changed:

  • Contribution increases from April 2012 of between 0 and 2.4% for those on a pensionable salary of £26,557 or more.
  • Further discussion on contribution increases for all NHS staff for 2013 and 2014.
  • There has been no movement from the government on bringing public sector retirement ages into line with the state pension age, which is increasing from 65 to 66, 67, and 68 depending on how old you are currently. Although there will be a review of pension ages for those staff who undertake physical work, such as emergency services.
  • There has also been no movement from the government on the linking of pension increases to the CPI rather than the RPI – UNISON and other trade unions have taken this to the court of appeal.
  • The new NHS scheme will start in 2015. It will be a career average scheme, although this is not necessarily a bad thing for low paid female workers, but is dependent on decent accrual and revaluation rates.
In summary then, those earning under £26,557 full-time salary won’t pay any extra contributions (at least until 2013), while those earning above that salary will pay more from April 2012. All NHS workers will work longer, and will get less in retirement (unless the courts overrule the switch from RPI to CPI).

Danny Alexander has promised that what is agreed as part of the current negotiations will last for 25 years. Can we believe him?

UNISON members in the NHS scheme now have to decide what the next steps should be. We have 2 choices:

Either we:

Reject the final offer and commit to further industrial action.

Or we:

Agree to continue negotiations on the final offer and then consult members on the final package. If these negotiations fail then we still have the option of further industrial action as we are still in dispute and our ballot is still live.

UNISON members in the NHS scheme may want to consider whether what we have gained is enough - have we won enough ground to suspend industrial action? Again the question I think we need to ask is what’s going to happen to contribution increases in 2013, particularly as the government is still committed to securing Spending Review savings of £2.3 billion in 2013/14 and £2.8 billion in 2014/15. How else can they get these savings if not from increased contributions? Given that at least half of NHS workers will pay more, work longer, and get less, is this really a good enough deal to suspend further industrial action? But if we agree now, when other trade unions do not, then we may find ourselves without the backing of our sister trade unions if we face the threat of increased contributions in 2013.

 

UNISON members need to decide what to do next


UNISON members have now got to decide what they want to do. Are members prepared for more industrial action to protect their pensions? If they are then I think we should hold out for more, because neither offer is really good enough, particularly if assessed against what we campaigned against – “pay more, work longer to get less”. On 30th November we showed what could be achieved when trade unions stand together. Public sector unions need to stick together, not just to oppose the changes to our pensions, but to oppose the pay freeze, pay cap, and cuts to terms and conditions, jobs and services.

But if UNISON members do not want to take further industrial action, then they will need to accept what’s on offer, which has been outlined above.

We need you to tell us what you want to do as soon as possible, and ideally by the 9th January. You can talk to your steward, or phone or email the branch office (01934 634759 / unison@n-somerset.gov.uk), or you can log on to the branch blog (http://www.northsomersetunison.blogspot.com) or facebook page (http://www.facebook.com and search for North Somerset Unison) and leave your comments there.

Full information at:


 

Pensions Updates Meetings for Members


5th January at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms 8-9-10

18th January at 12.30 pm - Old Council Chamber, Town Hall

24th January at 12.30 pm – Badger House room 2

8th February at 12.30 pm - Badger House room 2

14th February at 12.30 pm - Castlewood rooms 8.9.10

21st February at 12.30 pm - New Council Chamber, Town Hall

 

Switch from RPI to CPI



EDM 2228 Public Sector Pensions


UNISON Labour Link is urging Labour party members to ask their MP to support Early Day Motion 2228 in the House of Commons. The motion has been put down by Dave Anderson MP and is sponsored by Debbie Abrahams MP, Alex Cunningham MP, Ian Lavery MP, Tony Lloyd MP and Joan Walley MP.

The motion highlights the concern that members may leave the pension schemes if they become too expensive for public sector workers, therefore putting the schemes in jeopardy. The motion further calls for meaningful negotiations to take place to secure sustainable schemes for the future.

If you are unsure who your MP is go to http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and type in your postcode and write to your MP today.

You can read the EDM itself at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2228
and also read a list of the MPs who have signed it.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

This is what Martin Luther King said early in 1968:

‘We should resolve to be more concerned than ever before about the least of these God’s children. A number of you this morning got up – I would say most of you – and you had a good breakfast. I would hope that all of you had. You got up in a house – it may not have been the finest house in the world, but I assume it had heating. Most of you have running water. Most of you have a job or some kind of income. But this morning I want to remind you, and I hope you will never forget it, that most of the people of the world not only missed a good breakfast this morning but they went to bed hungry last night. Two thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. These are the least of God’s children. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. I’ve been on the streets of India. I’ve seen them on the streets of Africa. I’ve seen them on the streets of Latin America. But not only that I’ve seen them on the streets of our own nation. I’ve seen men in the Delta of Mississippi who earn only two or three hundred dollars a year. I’ve seen it with the unemployed in the ghettos of our nation, and underemployed. And I’m simply saying this morning, that you should resolve that you will never become so secure in your thinking or your living that you forget the least of these… In some sense, all of us are the least of these, but there are some who are least than the least of these. I try to get it over to my children early, morning after morning, when I get a chance. As we sit at the table, as we did this morning in morning devotions. I couldn’t pray my prayer without saying, “God, help us, as we sit at this table to realize that there are those who are less fortunate than we are. And grant that we will never forget them, no matter where we are.” And I said to my little children, “I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.” And in God’s economy the man who has been to No house is as significant as the man who’s been to Morehouse.  In God’s economy the no degree is as significant as the PhD. In God’s economy the man who lives in the slum is as significant as Henry Ford or John Rockafeller. And when we see this, we love and we are concerned about the least of these God’s children. Don’t ever allow yourselves to forget them. Resolve this New Year’s Sunday that you’re going through 1968 concerned about the least of these God’s children.’

Dr Martin Luther King, “What Are Your New Year’s Resolutions?” Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, 7th January 1968.

I also really liked Naomi Klein's tweet linking me to Woody Guthrie's 1942 New Year's Resolutions, particularly number 33 "Wake up and Fight" - http://www.commondreams.org/further/2011/12/30-2