Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Fight for decent public sector pensions is part of a broader battle

Fight for decent public sector pensions is part of a broader battle

Your editorial (Public sector pensions: Downhill racing, 6 June) wrongly suggests that "the dinner ladies have settled". In fact, there is an offer that thousands of GMB, Unite and Unison members, including school meal workers, across England and Wales will soon be balloted on. While national union officials may be keen to see swift acceptance of a deal branded "LGPS 2014" (Local Government Pension Scheme), ballot results on similar proposals in other pension schemes – among lower-paid health workers as well as doctors, civil servants, teachers and college lecturers – all indicate that "dinner ladies" and council workers may reject the deal.

These current offers not only sound the death knell of final-salary schemes, but signal an acceptance of a link to the state retirement age. This means a likely contribution increase over a working life in return for a potentially worse payout on retirement. Meanwhile, there is now the real prospect of workers currently under age 37 facing retirement at age 70.

Contrary to the editorial's conclusion that mass sackings across the public sector are making pension schemes more "affordable", the impact of job losses could well be the opposite as hundreds of thousands cease to contribute to schemes and thousands of those made redundant start to draw their pensions early.

The Tory-led coalition has indeed seen the erosion of final-salary pension schemes as a central plank of its more general offensive against the public sector and its workforce in anticipation of accelerating privatisation. The fight around pensions has therefore been part of a more fundamental battle, which is not yet resolved. This battle over essential inequality is not between public and private sector workers, but between the vast majority of the population and a small minority of corporate bosses – and their political allies – whose pensions remain unassailable.

With all this in mind, many Unison activists are determined to work alongside fellow trade unionists to ensure that the pensions fight is rekindled.

George Binette Branch secretary, Camden Unison, Marsha Jane Thompson Branch secretary, Havering Unison

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