The Socialist 22 February 2012
For real jobs - not workfare
Pensions: Strike on 28 March
Tell the government... "No Deal!"
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive committee (personal capacity)
The Con-Dems' shabby deal on public sector pensions is little different to what was on offer on 30 November, when two million workers took strike action.
The government still expects workers to pay more, work longer and get less. This is why civil servants in the PCS, teachers in the NUT and lecturers in the UCU unions are being consulted on plans for further strike action, starting with another national strike on 28 March.
There is no reason for workers to pay in more and then get less in return. For example, the NUT calculates that £46 billion more has been paid into the teachers' pension scheme than has been paid out.
This 'deal' is an unfair tax on workers to pay for the government's bank bailouts while £120 billion of tax continues to go unpaid by the very rich.
If the Con-Dems are successful with this attack on pensions, it will be followed by further attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions.
Young workers have got the most to lose. They face a lifetime of high contributions but then won't be able to claim the full pension that they have paid so much for until they are at least 68.
Some young workers will just drop out of the schemes altogether, guaranteeing poverty in old age. That's a threat to everyone. If too many stop paying in, the pension schemes would really be in trouble. Then they'll demand even higher contributions!
The government's attacks don't just affect public sector workers. They have acted as a signal to big business to make further attacks on private sector pensions.
Unilever, where workers have already started a programme of strike action, Shell and Ford have all ended their final salary pension schemes despite all increasing their profits. There is, therefore, the potential for public and private sector unions to coordinate action over pensions.
Support further action
The threat of action last November forced some minor concessions out of this government. With continued action, public sector workers can win further gains. This is why PCS, NUT and UCU members should vote yes in the consultation to continue campaigning to save pensions and yes to further strike action, starting with 28 March.
They could be joined by the Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (Nipsa), Scottish teaching unions EIS and SSTA, the Fire Brigades Union and sections of Unite, who have also rejected the pensions offer.
The government intends to start increasing pension contributions from April, but the changes don't come fully into effect until 2015. Public and private sector workers' action can still force the government into retreat.
Pensions' minister says: 'Take a break'
Lib Dem pensions minister Steve Webb wants companies to offer 'defined ambition' pensions.
Instead of being regulated like final salary schemes, bosses could offer 'reassurance' to workers over pensions, but have 'flexibility' for stock market fluctuations or if workers live too long!
Many employers went on 'pensions holidays' during the booms of the 1990s, to boost their profits. The 2001 stock market crash then left many pension funds in deficit.
Shell, which recently ended its final salary pension scheme, took a 'contributions break' as late as October 2007.
It seems the minister's real reassurance is for big businesses that cut workers' pensions.
National Shop Stewards Network
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