Showing posts with label public sector. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public sector. Show all posts

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strike to defend pay and pensions

Tens of thousands of Scottish workers will be on strike today protesting at government pension reforms. Departments affected include Jobcentres, tax and benefit offices, courts, coastguards, Historic Scotland venues such as  Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, and civilian workers at the Faslane nuclear base and the Scottish Parliament. Some health workers, mainly porters and technicians from the Unite union, are also expected to take action.

PCS Scottish Secretary, Lynn Henderson, said the changes, which appeared in April's pay packets for the first time, were costing some members up to £150 a month.

 STUC general secretary Graeme Smith said the action demonstrated the frustration people were feeling. "People feel aggrieved at being asked to pay more, having to work longer and get less at the end of the day," he said.

We are being told practically every day that we are living in hard times and that we must be prepared to tighten our belts. Longer working lives, lower pensions and more unemployment are the prospects for the working class. Socialists recognise the necessity of workers' solidarity in the class struggle defending pay and pensions against the capitalist class.

It's simple really.Your pension is your wage deferred until you retire. And we need to be very clear. Lowering pension levels and raising the retirement age are cuts in real pay. That there is at present a "problem" once more proves that the market economy is incapable of going beyond the limits of the wages system. That capitalism cannot adequately provide for the needs of the class that creates all the wealth in the first place and it cannot offer us security in the long run.

Unions cannot work miracles. Unions cannot make revolutions. What is required in addition to trade union action is socialist political action.

If you accept the logic of capitalism, you play by its rules – and by its rules, government cuts are just necessary and inevitable. By its rules, to fight against the cuts and for higher wages is as senseless as trying to shake fruit from a dead tree. Without a decent anti-capitalist argument, and an idea of what we are for, we've lost before we’ve begun. That’s why socialism is so important. Yes, it is, as we are often told, a ‘nice idea’. But when it takes hold of workers, it could become much more than that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

feather-bedded and gold-plated

Ian Bell, the Herald's columnist has written a useful article about the attcks on state workers pensions. He points out that public sector pensions account for 1.5% of GDP. By 2027-28, the percentage is projected to rise all the way to an “unsustainable” 2%. It also takes no account of the effect of shedding half a million jobs thanks to George Osborne’s 2010 spending review.

"A reformer was invariably someone who wanted to make a bad situation better. Not any more. In the mouths of politicians these days, reform is a word meant to give credibility to changes that are liable to be unpleasant, unpopular, or both...When you are told you will have to work longer, pay more and receive less in old age for your pains, it’s little comfort to hear that your lot has been “reformed”..."

Negotiations are at an end even as the talking continues is the position, it seems, of Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, who will defend his “fair and reasonable” proposals, of the pre-determined outcome. No pensions until the age of 66; employee contributions increased by at least 3%; and a less generous settlement come retirement.

The unions could kick up a fuss, of course. But they should heed Vince Cable, business secretary: if they persist, he might feel the need to "reform" industrial relations law concerning strikes.

Summarised, the message might be this: don’t bother to negotiate, don’t bother to protest. As Mr Alexander is happy to explain, if opposition to "reform" continues, his next offer is liable to be worse.

Why should anyone [except MPs ,of course] be feather-bedded with a gold-plated pension in these hard times, when private sector workers enjoy no such luxuries? It amounts to this: private sector workers have been screwed, so it’s only fair that you, too, should be screwed.

The TUC says most public sector workers receive pensions of between £5000 and £8000 annually. The PCS union claims the average retired civil servant gets £4200.

Lord Hutton’s review of arrangements proceeded on the basis that half of pensioners receive less than £5600 a year and 10% less than £1000. His averages (for 2009-10) were as follows: local government, £4052; NHS, £7234; civil service, £6199; teaching, £9806; armed forces, £7722. Only 10% of retirees had pensions of £17,000 or above. These tended to be retired policemen and fire officers, but in those professions employee contributions – 8.5% to 11%, depending on the scheme – were far higher than most. 1% of workers in receipt of £37,000 a year. Two-thirds of them were doctors and consultants, and most of those could have bought far larger pots had they pursued private medicine.

If anything has been learned from the Coalition Government it is this: the more they get, the more they demand. They cite the national interest. But by what bizarre logic did the cost of Britain’s public sector come to be the reason and cause for underwriting criminal behaviour in international banking? Mr Alexander’s reforms are intended to raise billions, not improve the life of a single underpaid council worker contemplating retirement.