PCS serwotkaofficialPCS union leader Mark Serwotka rallied Britain against the great pensions robbery today, hitting out at a "defeatist" mentality among some senior figures within the labour movement.

Writing exclusively in the Morning Star at the end of a tough year for public servants, Mr Serwotka heaped praise on millions of rank and file trade unionists who braved government threats of further anti-union legislation to stage two major strikes this year.

"The pensions dispute, following on from the huge March 26 demonstration and with fantastic days of action on June 30 and November 30 (N30), has become the first mass challenge to the coalition," he said.

Insisting his union would stand firm on the issue, Mr Serwotka suggested that this "pivotal moment" could still be squandered by a hesitation among some leading trade unionists to fight back industrially.

"Danny Alexander crowed in Parliament at the end of December that the 'heads of agreement' deliver the government's key objectives in full, and do so with no new money since our November offer," he said.

"There is a deep-seated fatalism within parts of the leadership of the movement that says you can never win. That industrial action, even on the scale of N30, will never beat the government back. As one union has put it, 'damage limitation' was the best that was ever possible.

"People ask how can a coalition government of millionaires be still winning in the opinion polls despite its cuts and deeply hostile attitude to public services?

"In my view it is because of the failure of leaders in the Labour party and the trade unions to make a credible stand.

"Unions now have to make a decision of enormous significance: accept the government's proposals on pension age, contributions and the value of pensions, or demand real negotiations on the real issues."

The unprecedented comments by Mr Serwotka come after the government tried to exclude PCS from pensions discussions after the union's executive rejected its proposals.

PCS confirmed today the union was considering legal challenge over the decision.

Unison and GMB have both signed "heads of agreement" which define the structure of negotiation, with a view to thrashing out details in the new year.

But Unite has not lifted its suspension of the local government agreement until the union's national committee considers it in early 2012.

Asked whether the comments would be seen as divisive within the trade union movement, a PCS spokesman said: "We need an honest assessment of where we have got to and where we are going next."

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths added: "Unions need to meet urgently to draw up a strategy based on common objectives and which recognises the value of a bold and imaginative approach to various forms of popular and industrial action."

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