Thursday, 17 November 2011

Barnet for Fair Pensions for All

We had a productive joint meeting of Barnet TUC and the anti-cuts group, the Barnet Alliance, this evening to coordinate our activities on Wednesday 30 November. I hope by now readers know that many unions representing public sector workers will take part in a national 24-hour strike on that day, to defend their pensions.

Below is the contribution to this evening's meeting by a member of the civil service union PCS, Ian Albert, of their national executive committee. I'll post some information in the coming days about what we are doing in Barnet to mark this day of industrial action, probably the biggest since the 1926 General Strike! But first Ian Albert:
I used to live in Edgware; I worked in the Department of Health and Social Security at Raydean House. I’m also a long-suffering Barnet FC season ticket holder. Barnet council treats Barnet FC very badly. Unions and community should forge links with the club.

PCS, NUT, UCU and ATL colleagues took strike action over pensions on 30 June. We are all public service workers performing a valuable service for the community; we organise people in a huge range of services. PCS even includes coastguards – a service currently under attack - and Beefeaters at the Tower of London!

Our struggle with the government is not just about pensions, but also about pay cuts and job losses. PCS has been putting forward an alternative to the cuts. Many of you marched for the alternative on the TUC demonstration on 26 March.

There are things that this government should be doing instead: tackling youth unemployment, for example, saving a million people whose lives will be destroyed for years to come. We saw such things under Thatcher; I hoped we would not see them again.

We see workers in Greece, Italy, suffering similarly. We need an alliance across Europe for the alternative

On pensions, the unions are uniting and coordinating to win. We must never let this government drive a wedge between those who work in the public sector and the private sector. Cameron says we have gold-plated pensions in the public sector (not true). But we have been doing better recently in the public than the private sector because we have stronger unions in the public sector. Many private companies have destroyed their pension schemes; private companies have been getting tax relief – making a profit - on pensions.

This is what explains the divide between public and private: a drive to the bottom. We are taking action on 30 November to stop this drive to the bottom.

Our members, who have been privatised, at Fujitsu, Capita, etc, are facing attacks on their pension schemes.

I would urge you to visit our website for the PCS briefing on “Fair Pensions for All” (download the pdf here). The UK is at the bottom of the table as regards pensioner poverty. Our campaign sets out the case for decent occupational pensions in the private and public sector, but also for decent state pensions. The rising age for eligibility for state pensions should be challenged.

I’m looking forward to hearing the contributions this evening about how we go forward from here. We can win if we stay united, if we are not bought off or distracted by statements such as the absurd remarks about union members avoiding loss of pay by taking 15 minutes’ strike action by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude recently.

My union, PCS, represents grades up to middle managers; for the first time in years we will be going out on strike with senior managers. To see unions such as NAHT, FDA, even non-TUC affiliates, all expressing support for the campaign is encouraging and something we must build on.

Unions in every town and borough should work together in the coming days, just as PCS nationally has forged good relationships with unions including Unite and NUT over the past few months.

It is disappointing that the Labour Party so far have not been more vocal in their support; I hope we can still persuade Ed Miliband to give support for our democratic ballots of three million workers.

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