Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/431/5069
Action to defend our pensions!
THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the result of the strike ballots amongst members of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) has been postponed for last-minute negotiations to take place. The announcement is now due to be made at a joint press conference of the key unions involved on 15 March, if no agreement is struck in the negotiations.
In preliminary meetings over the last few days, the government's figures have been shown to be flawed. UNISON has produced figures contradicting those supplied by the government actuaries.
Council workers are furious about the attacks on their pensions and the likelihood of a big majority for strike action in the ballot, has helped push the government into further negotiations.
One of the worst aspects of the government's attacks is the abolition of the right to retire at 60 if you have at least 25 years' service - the '85-year rule'. UNISON has pointed out that under the current proposals, the arbitrary effect of abolishing this right would mean if Tony Blair was a member of the LGPS, he would have to work an extra five years or retire on less money. Gordon Brown, a couple of years older, would be able to retire at 60.
Fortunately for them, Gordon and Tony have made sure their generous pensions are safe. But even before these attacks were proposed, LGPS members did not have much to look forward to in their retirement. Their average pension is less than £4,000 a year, a far cry from the MPs' £40,000. Women pensioners are getting an average of £31 a week.
LGPS members don't just work for local government. They provide essential services in, for example, higher and further education, fire and rescue services, probation and all over the voluntary sector. Many of these workers have been paying into the scheme for decades.
If the strike goes ahead it will be on 28 and 29 March. But many other workers are facing attacks on their pensions, throughout the public and private sectors. That is why the TUC should call a national demonstration to link together the battles to defend pensions and turn workers' anger into effective action.
No top people's pensions at Harrods
THE TOP people's store wants to close its final salary pension scheme to existing and new employees in April. They want to introduce a money purchase scheme.
The company has refused to negotiate with Amicus, which represents 100 engineers and maintenance workers, and the TGWU which represents distribution and warehouse workers. Both unions are consulting their members over holding a strike ballot. There are 1,500 members of the pension scheme.
In The Socialist 16 March 2006: