Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/392/4451
Workers demand justice on pensions
"NEW LABOUR elected on Thursday, workers on the march on Saturday". Those were the words of the deputy general secretary of the TGWU, Jack Dromey, to 400 workers marching on Downing Street on 7 May, as they sought justice over their pensions.
The march was mainly made up of workers from factories in Bromsgrove and Sheffield, workers who were made redundant as far back as 2001.
When their firms shut down, whilst the directors were given payments in excess of £100,000, these workers were left to survive on the statutory minimum redundancy pay of £260 for every year of service.
On top of this, the money they had all paid into the pension schemes (some for 40 years) was frozen by the administrators to pay other creditors.
One worker from Sheffield told me that he'd paid in £50,000 in pension contributions and despite the fact that the administrators were sitting on millions in the pension fund they were refusing to pay him what he was owed. Pointing to the police on the demo he said: "Imagine if they tried doing that to those lot".
These workers have been fighting a campaign for nearly five years yet, despite the rhetoric, New Labour has not delivered a single penny for them. The miserly pension protection scheme now in place does not apply to any worker made redundant before 2003. Even for those with a right to it, it could mean as little as £10 a week in compensation!
The union leaders are now placing their faith in new Department for Work and Pensions secretary, Blunkett. They praised him for meeting them on Saturday.
Given the plans that the government has for public sector workers' pension schemes, these workers should not hold their breath.
Blunkett's compassion for ordinary working people was shown when after the meeting he said: "This is a critical moment and we will not dodge it, we will be examining the money spent on incapacity and housing benefit".
What is he suggesting? That these workers may get something, as long as he can steal it out of the mouths of the poorest in society?
These workers have waited too long; you could sense the frustration that their pleas to a heartless government were getting nowhere.
Why are the private sector unions not making demands on big business and the government now and linking up with the public-sector unions in strike action to defend the pension schemes? Why wait until the workers have been sacked to campaign for justice?
In The Socialist 12 May 2005: