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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 September 2008

Fighting for decent pensions

The pensions workshop at this summer's National Shop Stewards Network conference was very informative and an issue of key importance to all workers. Ultimately most of us are going to be old age pensioners!

Alec Thraves, Swansea trades council

The themes of the discussion concentrated on the attacks on occupational pension schemes in both the public and private sector and the abysmally low state pension.

What was abundantly clear from all the contributors was that the only way to retain and improve pensions is to organise united militant action through trade unions and pensioners' organisations.

Chair of the meeting, RMT member Andy Littlechild, showed the benefits of militant trade unionism.

When Metronet went into administration it resulted in a 10% devaluation of the workers' pension scheme. But a ballot for strike action quickly turned this situation around with Transport for London (TfL) also now opening up the pension scheme to new members as well as other TfL employees!

Rob Williams, Unite (T&G) convener at Swansea's Visteon plant confirmed that a fighting union is the only way to defend pensions. His members have fought a three-year battle to defend terms and conditions and have been successful because the company knew that any reduced benefits or increased workers' contributions would have led to industrial action.

In the public sector, civil servants, local government workers and many others have seen their pension rights eroded, while full-time trade union leaders have failed dismally to organise a fight back.

However, with a fighting leadership, in the PCS civil service union, a partial victory was won in defending civil servants' pensions.

This was in contrast to the capitulation of the Unison leadership, which resulted in a big defeat for their members.

Neil Duncan-Jordon from the National Pensioners Convention graphically outlined the disgraceful poverty level of our state pension scheme.

One hundred years ago, after pressure from the trade union movement, the state pension scheme was introduced and marked the cornerstone of the future welfare state. However in the 21st century not only has it been undermined but 2.5 million pensioners live below the poverty line!

The need for a united battle for decent pensions is overwhelming. The trade union movement's role is central in this struggle and the victories in defending pensions, such as those at Visteon and of the Grangemouth oil workers are key lessons for all trade unionists.

The NSSN has been initiated to learn from those successes, to swap our experiences of how to defeat the employers and to bypass the obstacles of New Labour-loving trade union bureaucrats and to reform our organisations again into fighting trade unions.

  • See: www.shopstewards.net
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    In The Socialist 10 September 2008:

    Housing Crisis: Brown has no answers


    War and occupation

    End the wars and occupations

    USA: Defying police, students walk out against the Republican national convention


    Socialist Party editorial

    US mortgage bank nationalisation - sign of deepening crisis


    Scotland

    Scotland council tax to be scrapped

    Scotland: Council pay battle at critical stage


    Socialist Party workplace news

    Workers' anger surfaces at TUC

    London bus workers inspired by strike

    Fighting for decent pensions

    In brief


    Socialism 2008

    Come to Socialism 2008!


    Socialist Party campaigns

    May Day detainees fight for justice

    No to post office closures

    Boom to bust in Cardiff Bay

    Fans pay for the success of the 'beautiful game'

    Protest against harassment!


    Socialist Students

    Fighting start to freshers fairs

    Young workers ripped off

    Bangor University students union fees referendum


    Environment and socialism

    Can we have 'the right to travel' - without adding to climate change?


    Socialist Party review

    Richard Dawkins: The genius of Charles Darwin, (Channel 4)


    International socialist news and analysis

    Thailand in grip of political deadlock


     

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