23 February 2012
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You will be aware from NIPSA bulletin A/06/12 dated 21 February 2012 that a number of trade unions, including the National Union of Teachers, PCS, NIPSA, University Colleges Union (UCU) and UNITE are giving consideration to a further day of strike action on pensions on 28 March this year.
While we are unlikely to know until 17 March 2012 whether the strike will definitely be called, we nonetheless have to begin our preparations in the event of the strike proceeding on 28 March 2012. If the action takes place it will involve unions with members covered by the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (and its Northern Ireland equivalent) and the Teachers Superannuation Scheme. In addition action is likely to be taken by the UCU in respect of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
Of course trade union members only take strike action as a last resort and as a means of strengthening our negotiating position and delivering increased leverage to secure a more acceptable outcome to the pensions dispute. The Government has not moved in any substantial way in response to the strike action on 30 November 2011. The unions contemplating further strike action on 28 March 2012 recognise that we need to prepare for a longer campaign. If no further action is taken to keep the issue of pensions justice for civil servants a live issue then the government will interpret this as a signal to launch further attacks not only on pensions but also on other important terms and conditions of employment.
Further industrial action would be part of a broader campaign to apply political pressure on the coalition government to provide the financial resources required for a negotiated settlement to the dispute. Any strike action on 28 March 2012 must be seen as an integral part of this broader campaign.
The UK wide campaign of the civil service and teaching unions is also, in addition to strike action, likely to contain the following elements:-
- Joint trade union protests and demonstrations on a local and regional basis.
- Joint mass lobbying of Ministers at events and public appearances.
- Joint lobbying of MPs in their constituencies.
Civil servants in Northern Ireland have already been notified by Pensions Branch that they will be having increased pension contributions deducted from their April 2012 salaries. Though the detail is not yet known further increased deductions are planned in April 2013 and April 2014.
In order to prepare for possible strike action on 28 March the following steps need to be taken.
- Meetings of NIPSA Civil Service branch representatives are being convened across Northern Ireland at different locations. The purpose of these events is to brief local representatives on the current position on pensions and the preparatory work that will be required between now and 28 March in anticipation of a strike being called. Arrangements for convening these meetings will be made by NIPSA HQ and notified shortly to branches.
- Branches should convene meetings of members to discuss the up to date position on pensions. In convening these meetings branches will need to bear in mind the potential attitude of Management to the timing and location of these branch meetings. It is recommended that branches should seek a speaker from NIPSA HQ or the Civil Service Group Executive Committee. Any branch seeking a speaker for their meeting should contact Aidan McDonnell, email@example.com.
- A leaflet will be made available for distribution to members alerting them to the possible strike action and if the strike action is confirmed a further leaflet will be issued encouraging members to participate in the strike on 28 March 2012.
It should also be noted that many low and middle income civil servants will also lose out as a result of planned changes to social security provision, including housing benefits and tax credits. The increases in pension contributions must be considered against this background as well as the current freeze and planned cap on civil service pay.
NIPSA is liaising closely with the other unions considering taking action on 28 March 2012 and further bulletins will be issued as developments occur, especially if any potential industrial action is confirmed by the other unions.