The Socialist inbox
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Views of letter writers do not necessarily match those of the Socialist Party.
Blairites attack firefighters
Will you make sure to inform me when any Labour councillors announce that future councillors will be on less money, and have to undertake duties which current councillors do not, as they are trying to do to firefighters?
Pete McNally, Welland, Worcestershire
In the opinion of the National Pensioners Convention (Gloucester, Avon and Somerset region), the recent Resolution Foundation report on "intergenerational fairness" seems to hold 'rich' pensioners responsible for the problems faced by young people.
This is the same dangerous nonsense which the government has been peddling in order to avoid responsibility for the damage its austerity policies are causing in all sections of society. The Resolution Foundation is chaired by Tory ex-minister David Willetts, so this is hardly surprising - but it's disturbing to see that the Trade Union Congress has also put its name to the report.
The report rightly points to the escalating crises of social care, housing and insecure employment. But these problems exist across generations, and will not be solved by pitting one age group against another.
The report calls for working pensioners to pay additional National Insurance to fund the crisis in social care, and for a grant of £10,000 for every 25-year-old to help them with housing.
Promising 25-year-olds a bung of £10,000 to solve their housing problems is a vote-buying gimmick. It is the lack of social and affordable housing, unfettered private rents and property prices, and low-paid and insecure employment which currently put house purchase out of the reach of most young people.
Claude Mickleson, Lydney, Gloucestershire
A recent feature in the Economist (26 May) discussed the US economy under Trump. Noticeably, the article started by confirming our analysis of the economy in the post-economic crash period:
"Comparing 2009-17 with an average of the past half-century, post-tax profits were 31% higher as a share of GDP. But they were spent on share buybacks and cosy market-consolidating mergers rather than investment, which was 4% lower as a share of GDP than its 50-year average. Pay was 10% lower."
Trump claims he will respond to this situation and "make America great again" by restoring the position of US industry, particularly through boosting investments. But the tax breaks he has introduced for the rich and corporations are mostly being used in the same way as pro-business incentives under Obama: to pile on the profits even further.
But the article does go on to point out that business investment in the first quarter of 2018 rose by 7% compared to 2017, and 19% for big firms. But almost 50% of this is accounted by the top five US tech firms, which have generally been cash-rich - Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Intel, and Microsoft.
Trump's policies, including his recent tariff threats on steel and aluminium, won't create a renaissance of industrial jobs, but at best a tech and automation boom that will mean any new industrial capacity is largely automated.
American workers looking for decent jobs need instead to join the growing $15-an-hour minimum wage movement - which our US co-thinkers Socialist Alternative have been at the forefront of - and the struggle to build a mass socialist force that can fight for the democratic public ownership of the economy needed to guarantee jobs for all.
Iain Dalton, Leeds
Waterworks and pensions
Fed up of getting ripped off by the privatised utilities? No wonder 83% of us support nationalisation of water. But please spare a thought for the workers at United Utilities who are also getting ripped off by absentee shareholders greedy to increase their profits at the expense of workers' pensions.
These workers, who are out in all weathers, are currently having to strike or work to rule simply to defend their agreed pension scheme. A company attack on the 'defined benefit' scheme would see some workers losing thousands of pounds a year in retirement while wealthy shareholders see their dividends rise even more.
The inevitable company attempt to plead poverty is laughable - only in November they announced a 13% half-yearly increase in profits to £342 million.
The outcome of this battle will affect us all, because it is part of a generalised assault on workers' pensions by big business - which will leave the next generation more dependent on the tax-funded state pension, set to be the worst in the developed world.
The OECD warns that a typical retired worker in Britain will receive a state pension and other benefits worth only about 29% of their previous wage, compared to an average of 63% elsewhere. Only with a decent private pension will this come up to 60% - still below average.
Companies and politicians have used rising life expectancy as an excuse to justify their attacks on pensions and increase of the retirement age to 68. But this has now peaked and is going into reverse for some social groups due to austerity and attacks on the NHS and social care.
Professor Dorling warns that if the trend continues, people in the UK will have the lowest life expectancy in Europe, with a larger proportion dying before, or soon after, receiving a pension.
One thing is for sure. Without these workers supplying us with clean drinking water and safely taking away our sewage, our life expectancy would be decades lower. So let's all give them our support and their unions our solidarity.
Brent Kennedy, Carlisle Trade Union Council, chair
University gender inequality
During my time in the further education sector I was never consciously aware of my gender, I worked hard and my career progressed. I had of course read about gender inequality in education but I had not experienced this first-hand. I knew about the glass ceiling but had never hit it.
My experience changed significantly when I became a member of staff at a university. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that I wasn't being treated the same as my male counterparts. Perhaps naively I expected to move on with my career based on merit and hard work as had been my experience to date.
The University and College Union 2017 report 'The Gender Pay Gap in Higher Education' found that although women outnumber men at early career points such as research assistants, researchers and lecturers, there is a clear and continuous decline in the proportion of women as seniority increases.
Only 39% of women reach the position of senior lecturer, principal lecturer, reader or principal research fellow. Less than one-quarter of professors are women. 80% of vice-chancellors are male.
As I write this I am the only woman on an all-male management team. I have to shout louder to be heard. I have to fight against a system that does not provide an even platform for women.
This is what has driven me to set up a university women's network at my place of work, independent of the university but recognised by the university as a staff network. The aim of the network is to promote the activities, stories and successes of women; create a forum for women to discuss and share experiences of working in higher education; and coordinate developmental activities.
The network will be launched at an event on 26 June. Already we have 40 women from across the university signed up to attend and I suspect a lot more will join us. Together we have the strength and capacity to fight a system that works against us every day of our working lives.
A Welsh higher education worker
9 Dec West London Xmas party
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