Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13089
Pension talks: Opponent wavers, now's the time to push ahead with action!
Martin Powell-Davies, a member of the executive committee of the National Union of Teachers and a member of the Socialist Party, commented on his blog today on the news of government concessions in the talks on public sector pensions and welcomed a TUC pledge to go ahead with strike action on 30 November.
The full details of the supposed 'pensions offer' to unions are still to become clear but the conclusion that we have to drive home is that our campaigning and the threat of the 30 November strike IS having an effect!
The government is being forced to offer some concessions. With our opponent wavering, now we have to drive ahead with the biggest and strongest action on 30 November - and certainly not take a step back.
The concession that they've made so far appears (to be confirmed when we hear further details) to be minimal. From what the press have said:
- It's still 'pay more' - so still a massive pay cut while we suffer a pay freeze and inflation rockets.
- It's still 'get less' - with career averages and CPI. Danny Alexander has told MPs that the 'offer' includes accrual rates of 1/60 - but that's exactly the same rate as already applies in the existing scheme for new entrants - so that's no real improvement. For older teachers who are presently on a worse accrual rate of 1/80 but who also get a lump-sum on retirement as well, I suspect that the 1/60 'offer' may turn out to be a worsening of their pension, not an improvement at all.
- It's still 'retire older' - unless - and this seems the only concession, you're over 50 or so, in which case, it seems you would still be allowed to take your pension without reduction at 60. However, this is the cheapest possible concession, because the pension workers had already 'banked' before any new pension changes come in was always going to be protected - so this will only be a few years extra protection for workers already close to retirement.
Danny Alexander has said that the 'offer' includes a higher 'cost- ceiling' - ie a greater overall budget for the scheme (to pay for the ten-year protection largely). However, their original cost-ceiling was set so low that they were actually hoping to cut the employers' contribution towards pensions. This slight concession might only mean that the employers will still pay in their existing 14.1% of salary costs after all. Of course, teachers will have to pay around 10% - compared to 6.4% now. For me (and many other colleagues) that's a £150 a month pay cut!
If this is the case, the Treasury has made no real concession - it's still getting away with cutting the cost of public sector pensions while we pay more to get less.
It also seems to be the same old lies about 'unaffordable' pensions, without any proper valuation to back up their assertions.
It's the same old propaganda that we should accept cuts and just be grateful that we're not as badly off as private sector colleagues who have had their pensions stolen off them already.
I was pleased to read that TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has said that the planned strike action on 30 November is still going ahead as things stand:
"All of our unions acknowledge that they've made a material move in their position. But we're a long way from a position where we've got offers on the table that might prove acceptable".
Cameron and Alexander may have done us a favour. Because before, when union members have asked their reps 'but what's the point in striking, this government never retreats', there's been little concrete movement to point to.
Now there is. But they will need to retreat a lot further than this for us to end our campaign of discontinuous action!