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Strike To Defend Pensions
PUBLIC SECTOR workers have been angrily responding to the government's attacks on their pensions.
A Kent nurse told the socialist:
"These plans mean that when we do finally get to retire we will be living on much reduced pensions.
"I've worked for the NHS for seven years and the pensions cuts will have a big effect on me. When you add on the effects of the new pay and grading scheme, Agenda for Change, I'll be even worse off.
"I'll only end up with between £500 and £750 a month by the time I'm 65, if I'm still alive by then!
"Our job is getting more and more stressful. We have to be constantly updating our training.
"It's got so that just getting up and going to work puts a tremendous strain on our health. And come the end of our time in service we are getting the arse end of the deal.
"Consultants and people in higher management will be much better off than us but the ones at the coal face are going to have to live hand to mouth as pensioners.
"The nurses I work with - from auxiliary to staff nurses - think that this attack on our pensions, along with Agenda for Change, is just a Labour government being Tories.
In fact they're stabbing us in the back more than Thatcher did, or Major."
HUGO SINCLAIR, a university admin worker, added:
"In the next few months New Labour is planning to force public-sector staff, its employees, to work till they drop, for, in some cases, an average pension of just £3,800 per year.
"The plain unfairness of a system which lets MPs set their own pay, yet attacks our pensions and living standards, cannot be allowed to continue.
We have reached the point where more pensioners in the UK die of cold each year than in any other European country.
This system, where the greedy few exploit the rest of us, is not only morally bankrupt - but will bankrupt us all unless we stand up to it and stop it!"
The next few weeks could see thousands of public-sector workers striking to defend their pensions. PCS and UNISON are already planning action for 23 March and now lecturers' union NATFHE are balloting for action on 14 April
The task now is to use the 18 February day of action to show that the trade unions can fight together on this issue, to involve as many members as possible in the protests and to prepare for solid strike action in the following weeks.
Blair and New Labour have declared war on our pensions but a united battle can force a turnaround and signal the start of a trade union fightback against all of the cuts and privatisations that public-sector workers have had to endure.
Organising for action
I'VE BEEN speaking at loads of meetings of PCS members recently and they're absolutely furious, right across the age spectrum, that they're attacking our pensions now as well.
Marion Lloyd, PCS civil service union national executive
We've got meetings all round Yorkshire and Humberside on the TUC day of action on pensions on 18 February.
In Sheffield we've got two marches, one from each side of the city, meeting in the centre for a rally at 12.30pm. We asked all our local MPs to come but none of them have even responded, apart from one, Labour of course, who said 'no'.
We've set up a public sector alliance to link up all the public sector trade unions. So we'll have speakers from those unions and the pensioners' organisations at the rally.
A lot of PCS members are saying that one of the reasons they joined the civil service was the pensions. That partly makes up for the rubbish pay we get.
People see the 18 February as a preparation for the strike on 23 March. It's an opportunity to get wider layers of the union membership involved in the defend pensions campaign, ready for the strike. I think there'll be good support for the strike from PCS members. Even the areas of the civil service which are not hit by job cuts will be hit by these cuts in pensions.
In The Socialist 19 February 2005: