Retired Members report to Hampshire UNISON 2023 AGM

Fifteen years of austerity has led to crumbling public services with no end in sight.  A pandemic which swept around the world killing tens of thousands, particularly the elderly, appears for the present to be under control.  A war involving most of Europe continues into its second year.  These problems have recently been aggravated in this country by political instability and rampant inflation leading to widespread industrial unrest.

Protection was introduced to guard the value of the State Pension.  This was not honoured in April 2022.  Some MPs and elements of the Media suggested that the Triple Lock should be abandoned.  Given current inflation rates in excess of 10%, this would have been a financial disaster for many pensioners.  In common with other groups, we were very active in encouraging the government to honour the agreement this year.  Fortunately, they have stated that they will.  After some difficulties we were able to establish that Hampshire Pension Fund would make payments in line with inflation, providing Central Government does not interfere.  We have pointed out to current working members of Unison, that our activities protecting pensions is vitally important to them, as ground lost now could have significant impact on their future pensions.

To show support members of our committee with our banner attended the strike picket line of Unison members from Winchester University.  We enjoyed marching through Tolpuddle, on the occasion of the annual festival and recently attended a rally against a proposed meeting in Southampton  by ‘Britain First’ a fascist/racist organisation.  Accounts of this and much else we have been involved with are available to read on our Branch internet site.

Once again, the pensioners Bus Pass came under attack from Hampshire County Council.  On this occasion it was in the form of a survey, clearly intended to reduce availability of a highly valued concession.  We engaged with Hampshire media sources to oppose this.  Our campaign was very successful, generating a lot of media coverage, leading to HCC issuing denials and taking steps back from their intended policy.  We expect them to try again in the future.

Diana Barnes and Joe Hannigan attended the National Retired Members Conference held at Telford. In advance of the event, we submitted three Motions.  Two were rejected by the Standing  Orders Committee, these were supporting our Branch view that RMs should have representatives on the National Executive Council, the other supporting concessionary rail travel for pensioners.  The third was a plea that National and Regional committees should be more active working in the interests of pensioners.  Diana spoke  on this Motion and it was passed by Conference.  To date we have seen no improvement.  Members of our committee attended the RM Regional AGM, which was held remotely.  Little of consequence was achieved.

It saddens us that the ongoing difficulties within Unison National Leadership continue.  Perhaps the current National Executive Council elections will help to heal these divisions.

You may remember a few years ago the RM committee commissioned (pro bono) a report on the likely future of Trade Unionism (  The content was fascinating and probably did not get the attention it deserved.  The author recently advised us that he believes that recent and ongoing developments in AI (artificial intelligence) will lead to changes in the workplace so significant that:- “They will exceed those of the Industrial Revolution”  We hope that this is development unions are actively aware of and monitoring.

Social activity by our RMs Section has been limited.  We did enjoy a Christmas Lunch together  and under the guidance of Diana, we hope to organise more events this year.  Despite a difficult year my committee in characterised by enthusiasm and good humour, for which I thank them.

We know staff at our Branch Office have experienced an exceptionally difficult year.  We are fortunate to be led by our excellent Secretary Callum Williamson.  As always, we thank them for their support and encouragement.

Chris O’Neill

Chair Hampshire Unison Retired Members Section