The convention on Welsh self-government and fallout from the SNP reforms


Yesterday saw a step forward for Welsh self-government:

A chairman has been appointed to lead a convention to prepare the way for a referendum on establishing a full law-making parliament for Wales.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan and his deputy Ieuan Wyn Jones announced that former UK ambassador to the UN Sir Emyr Jones Parry, 60, was taking on the job.

Plans for a referendum within four years were key to the deal to form a Labour-Plaid assembly government.

Mr Morgan said the poll would be “on or before the next (assembly) election”.

The announcement was made to celebrate one hundred days of the One Wales agreement between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru. It’s worth noting that the convention idea came from Welsh Labour, not Plaid, according to John Osmond.

And with “the great divide” making the news because of reforms by the Scottish government under the Barnett Formula, what hope of English self-government?

From the CEP news blog:

In Scotland, especially amongst the SNP and Scottish Tories, there is strong support for scrapping the Barnett Formula and adopting ‘fiscal autonomy’. In principle there’s nothing wrong with that, but the problem lies in the fact that when you make the devolved nations autonomous in matters of finance you by default, in theory, do the same for England, and it would be unconstitutional for a UK Executive and Parliament containing non-English members to decide how England spends its money; there has to be accountability. In short, fiscal federalism demands political federalism. Or, to put it another way, no Barnett Formula means that EVoEM [English Votes on English Matters] is not enough.

At the moment England is governed and financed as if it were the UK, and money is hived off to the devolved administrations as a proportion of what is spent in England by the UK Government: England is Britain in matters political and financial. Ending the Barnett Formula is the first nail in that coffin of that unionist conflation of Britain and England.

Reports suggest postal dispute is far from over


The following highlights the need for CWU members to vote “no” to the leadership’s sell-out deal:

Postal staff are awaiting details of changes to their pension scheme, but there is still disagreement between Royal Mail and unions over the reforms.
Royal Mail says the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has agreed to the closure of its final salary scheme.

But the union says it has only agreed to a consultation on changes, which will then be put to a ballot of all its Royal Mail and Post Office members.

“The final details have not been decided on,” said a CWU spokeswoman.

Since the start of the year, Royal Mail has wanted to cut the cost of its huge final-salary pension scheme, which covers 160,000 staff but has a deficit of £6.5bn.

Along with changes to working practices, the closure of the existing final-salary scheme and its replacement with cheaper alternatives was at the heart of the postal service’s recent industrial dispute.


For existing staff, the crucial issue will be to what extent the new “career average” scheme is worse than their current final salary version.

Overall it will be less generous, requiring Royal Mail to pay in less each year as a percentage of staff salaries, thus cutting the employer’s overall contribution rate by perhaps five percentage points, according to one union official.

For staff who expect their salaries at the end of their careers to be significantly higher than when they started, such a scheme would undoubtedly be inferior.

For staff who do not expect much by way of promotional pay increases, it will not be so damaging.

Crucial to the calculation will be the rate at which pension is built up each year.

The CWU says the new scheme will maintain the same accrual rates as the current final salary one, either 1/60th or 1/80th of salary each year.

The BBC has also learned that the plan is for each member’s individual pension pot to be revalued each year in line with inflation, up to a ceiling of 5%, rather than being linked to final salary at retirement.

That would expose the members’ pensions to being eroded by inflation if it was running at a rate higher than 5%.

And from this week’s Socialist Worker:

Dave Warren, a member of the CWU postal executive, was one of five executive members who voted against the deal. Socialist Worker spoke to him about the implications of the proposed settlement.

‘Pensions, flexibility and pay remain the key issues of the dispute, and I have strong reservations about what the deal has to say in these areas.

On pensions, after 2010, you will only be able to retire on full benefits at age 65.

For manual workers who do a physically demanding job this is a big issue.

Changing our pension scheme from one that is based on your final average salary to one that is based on career average earnings will almost certainly have the effect of reducing benefits for many.

On flexibility the union has conceded the employers’ position almost completely. Local reps are going to be forced into agreeing “efficiency deals” with managers – that will mean the same amount of work being done in fewer hours.

The trials of new working practices are to be linked to pay. So if the changes are not implemented, 1.5 percent of the agreed pay rise will not be paid.

In addition there could be long and short days, with workers having to work shorter hours on days when it suits the company, and longer hours when mail volumes are ‘higher – something up to now the union has always opposed.

There will also be 30 minutes of flexible extra work. Managers will be able to extend workers’ shifts when it suits them, and give the time back at an unspecified later date.

The aim of these changes is to get everyone to work harder, and to cut overtime payments.

But what will all these changes mean to those who have family lives, lifts to and from work and a host of other arrangements all built around their shift patterns?

On pay, the popularly mentioned figure of 6.9 percent over 18 months is just not true.

The real figure is 5.4 percent over two years.

That is just 2.66 percent a year – and well below inflation.

And in addition to that, we have lost our ESOS bonus scheme, and many opportunities to earn overtime.

Our members have been magnificent and have stood absolutely solid through this strike. We cannot let them down now.

These are the key reasons why I voted against the deal and recorded my dissent.

There needs to be the broadest possible campaign for a no vote in the coming ballot of CWU members.

I would urge all CWU branches and divisions to get behind the meeting to launch that campaign, which is being organised for this weekend.’