Friday, 20 July 2012

UNISON's Higher Education Service Group recommends a reject vote in the LGPS consultation

"It makes you wonder who these people, elected by the members, believe they are elected to represent?" Anon.

Someone is unhappy with us in the Higher Education Service Group, as yesterday we voted to call for a reject recommendation in the imminent LGPS consultation. Well, that's democracy for you.

There were elections recently and, as I reported earlier, the left made some important gains in our unpredictable little service group. Those elected on a fighting platform made it very clear their position on the recent attacks on our pensions and on the need to keep fighting, and the need to show some backbone in our leadership.

So having won their seats on the HE Service Group, recently elected by our peers in a postal ballot to home addresses and overseen by Electoral Reform Society, unsurprisingly some felt a little put out by receiving instructions from some regions 'mandating' members to vote one way or another...

Constitutionally, members of the HE SGE are elected directly by members, not by a committee of branch activists or regional reps - or full timers for that matter.

Almost everybody involved conceded that the briefings of the consultation saw very low turn outs. In some regions there were no returns at all. Large, and important branches returned just one or two votes each. Some branches asked all their members what they thought of the proposals and got a 100 percent abstention rate!

Another branch just returned a 'yes' vote. Yes to what? More action? To accept? It was not explained. Others returned just the numbers of branches, without numbers of members from within the branches 'for' or 'against'. So they could have been just a handful of branch secretaries out of thousands of members.

It was pretty obvious in the consultation the abstentions had won the day. If the elected HE SGE members had decided to simply 'listen to the members' then most of us would have felt compelled to abstain!

Instead we agreed we should vote based on these questions:

  • Does the change from RPI to CPI mean we will get less? Yes.
  • Does the linking of normal retirement age to State pension age mean we will work longer? Yes.
  • Was a career average scheme imposed on us by the government when we had fought to retain a final salary scheme? Yes.
An honest appraisal of the proposed scheme is there clearly is detriment, particularly to younger members and new entrants. Therefore:

  • Do we deserve better? Yes.
  • Can we fight for more? Yes.
  • Should we take a lead? Yes.

For those reasons and others - after a healthy debate for well over an hour - yesterday the HE SGE took a lead and did so with clear mandates of recent elections and backed up by the anger and frustration expressed at our conference earlier in the year, when we were not allowed to vote on pensions then: We voted to recommend (to members in HE at least) a reject vote and now the members will decide for themselves.

It's not as if we decided not to allow members to have their say - all members will now get a home ballot.

It's a shame anonymous bloggers can't accept that in a democracy sometimes people don't just do as they're told. Sometimes people show backbone, instead. Today was one of those days, which I'm sure is difficult for a (presumably unelected?) anonymous, and certainly unaccountable 'clicktivist'... (*dislike*).

Well done all those in the Higher Education Service Group Executive members - including those who, having lost the vote fair and square can then go to the pub afterwards with everyone else to discuss common issues instead of trying to undermine the democracy of our service group. Cheers! 

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