Sunday, 27 November 2011

Striking To Secure Greater Dignity In Retirement

Wednesday sees the biggest strike in Britain for decades as more than three million public sector workers are expected to join forces in protest at Government plans to severely reduce their pension entitlement.
I fully support all those admirable men and women on strike in Unite, Unison, PCS, EIS, NASUWT and all the other unions involved because they face a three pronged assault on their chances of enjoying some kind of dignity in retirement.
The Government insists the country can't afford public sector workers' 'gold plated pensions'. But I see little evidence of such a thing. The purported generosity in current schemes is a mirage since the average woman in the local government pension scheme for example receives only £3,500 a year when she retires or £70 a week. The Government suggests that is too much for the country to afford! They are wrong.
They want to renege on an agreed pension agreement and force people to pay in much much more contributions over the years, and work much much longer before they can claim it and finally to expect much much less money than currently when they finally retire. Not an attractive proposition at all is it?
This 'triple assault' is necessary, claim the Government, because the country can no longer afford public sector workers pensions.
But I for one am not impressed by the Governments arguments. Tory Pensions Minister Francis Maude appears to justify the changes on the grounds that private company pensions are nowhere near as high as those in the public sector. But instead of drawing the conclusion that we the need to bring them up to an adequate level he proposes the opposite 'direction of travel'. Millions of people across Britain must face poverty in retirement. I prefer the more obvious connection, the one showing that where there is high levels of unionisation pensions are better. If the private sector provides poor pensions there's an answer. Join the union and make employers face up to their responsibilities.
See you on the picket line, Wednesday morning.

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