Trade unionists from across the public sector have launched a campaign for united action to defend pension provision.
Employers, and successive governments, have already trashed the basic state pension and private sector pensions. The basic state pension is a pittance, needing means-tested top-up to raise it even to subsistence level. The better (“final salary”) schemes have been broken, one by one, in the private sector.
Now Gordon Brown is starting in on pensions in the public sector, where trade unions are strongest. In Italy and France, similar moves have brought huge across-the-board strikes and demonstrations in response. Will Britain’s public sector unions duck the challenge, and let themselves be picked off one by one?
Different timings and details are proposed by the government in different sectors — civil service, health service, local government, fire service, teachers, etc. But the basics are common: raise the pension age; replace pensions tied to workers’ final salaries by “defined contribution” schemes with a smaller payout and a smaller burden on the employer; sometimes, increase workers’ contributions.
The Leeds branch of the National Union of Teachers has launched a petition in support of the call made on 16 November by Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil servants' union PCS, for a one-day public-sector general strike. Branches of PCS, Unison, and NATFHE are expected to add their support in the coming weeks.
The petition can also be used to drum up support for action from individual workers, by taking it round workplaces.
Signatures to the petition should be returned to Leeds NUT, West Park Centre, Spen Lane, Leeds LS16 5BE (email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 0113 230 4385).
The petition reads: “We the undersigned are angry that we are having a huge chunk of our pension stolen from us. In particular we are totally opposed to the idea that we should be forced to work until 65 to draw a full pension. At a time when workload and stress has increased the attack on our pensions is the last straw.
We think it is time that the unions used their strength to make clear to the government that we have had enough. We therefore call on the national executives of our unions to hold a ballot for one day’s unsustained action on the issue of pensions. We further call on them to co-ordinate that action with other public sector unions”.