Thursday, 6 October 2011

Get out the Vote

The key task facing the union in the next few weeks is making sure members vote in the pensions industrial action ballot - and making sure there is a massive yes vote for industrial action.

That was the single message from UNISON NEC when it met in London today.

"We've got 10 days to get a massive vote out," the union's lay leadership heard.

The ballot will be "the biggest ballot the county has ever seen," general secretary Dave Prentis told the meeting.

It is key that members do not receive the ballot paper cold, the meeting heard, but that they are aware of the issues and the need to vote before voting papers arrive next week.

Branches have received bulk supplies of leaflets urging a yes vote, enough for every member, and should already be using them to have conversations with members, urging them to vote - as well as recruiting new members.

Negotiations are continuing, Mr Prentis reported, but there has been little or no movement from relevant ministers.

They've got to be serious about negotiating if they want to avoid a strike, added the general secretary: about contributions increases, about the age at which pensions can be paid and about the new schemes they want, where ministers are refusing to even supply basic information on issues such as proposed employers' contributions or accrual rates.

"We need to put pressure on them with a massive turnout in the ballot and a massive yes vote," said Mr Prentis.

If action is necessary, the NEC agreed changes to the protocols to make it easier for branches to set up and fund industrial action funds allowing them to make hardship payments.

Though with more than a million members potentially taking strike action, it will not be possible for the union to pay strike pay.

The NEC was meeting in London as more than 20,000 members in Northern Ireland took part in aone-day strike, the largest action for 30 years.

The meeting sent a message of solidarity to Northern Ireland, as well as to members in Southampton, Birmingham, Barnet, Middlesex University and 20 other branches involved in campaigns of industrial action to protect members and the public services they provide.

The NEC also:
  • thanked Plymouth branch and the South West region for their work in getting the union rerecognised by the city council;
  • congratulated members who had played a leading role in TUC demonstrations;
  • received a report on the use of the union's fighting fund in supporting branches and regions;
  • heard the latest update on organisation and recruitment up to August;
  • received updates on planning for the 2012 UNISON conference, and report from UNISON's contribution to the TUC congress and Labour Party conference;
  • received a report on the union's six-month accounts to June and a verbal update on the accounts to August;
  • discussed ways to counter the threat to union facility time in the public services coming from the Conservatives.

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