Article from the Mar. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Blair and Brown...
HANDS OFF OUR PENSIONS
by Carmel Gates
President NIPSA (personal capacity)
WEDNESDAY 23 March is the date set for what is likely to be the largest strike in recent history. More than one million public sector workers will down tools in response to the government's attempts to rob them of their pensions.
Teachers, civil servants, local government workers and anyone who isn't a judge or an MP will suffer under plans to raise the age of retirement to 65 and to scrap final salary pension schemes. The average pension of a council worker is only £3,800 a year yet if the government get away with these changes, it is estimated that by 2040 pensions will be 40% smaller!
Pensions for public sector workers are not government hand-outs. They are deferred wages and they belong to the workers. The intentions of this government are no different to that of private sector companies, such as Richardsons, whose actions reduced the pensions of their workers to nothing. The only difference in the two crimes is the scale. The government will be stealing £100,000 billion from its workers.
The hypocrisy of the government is startling. MPs' recently reviewed their own pension scheme and awarded themselves an increase. They can now retire on a full pension after only 27 years but they are telling ordinary workers that they can't retire on a full pension even after working more than 40 years.
The government are seriously worried by the proposed strike action. New Labour MPs have been begging the unions not to strike before the election because they know that this is perfect time to expose a government that has allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Britain is the fourth richest country in the world and yet 55% of pensioners rely on benefits. One in five don't have enough food to eat or adequate heating in their homes.
Strikes have far more impact than press releases, lobbies of Parliament and begging talks with government ministers. Strike action followed by a clear campaign by the trade unions will focus public attention on the real issues facing working class people of all ages.
Pressure must be built from below to ensure that union leaders do not let the government off the hook. There must be no deals to call off the campaign in return for empty promises from a government with a track record of reneging on its promises. We have the government on the run. Let's keep them there until they back off.
- This Government spends just 5% of Britain's GDP on pensions compared to 11% on average in the European Union.
- In 1991 nearly six million workers had final salary schemes. Today it's less than half that number.
- The basic state pension is £79.60 a week for a single person - £45 less than the Family Budget Unit says is adequate to live on.
- 70% of women have no private pension of their own, but outliving men means that they can face a longer period of poverty and ill health.
- Sir Christopher Gent, former chief executive of Vodafone, retired a year ago on an annual pension of £702,000. BP's boss Lord Browne has built up a £19.1 million personal pension fund.