Thursday, May 10, 2012

"68 is too late"

Union leaders predict that up to 400,000 workers will be involved in a wave of demonstrations to resist changes that will involve millions of workers having to pay more into their pensions, retire later and receive less when they stop work. Public sector workers have had a pay freeze for the last 2/3 years. Picket lines for the strikes will be mounted outside government buildings and Parliament and rallies held in London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool. More strikes are expected next month and over the summer.

Civil servants, lecturers, health workers, Ministry of Defence staff, immigration officers, off-duty police officers and members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and even off-duty police officers will be among those joining strikes and other forms of protest across the UK.

 Public and Commercial Services union Regional Secretary, Peter Middleman said: “Members have overwhelmingly voted to reject the final offer because they realise these changes are unnecessary. All the independent evidence shows that our schemes are sustainable and affordable. In light of that we will not sacrifice a right to dignity in retirement to bail out a Chancellor who every day adds to the economic misery..."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Instead of making people work until they drop, we should be giving them dignity in their retirement, and rather than abandoning pensioners to poverty, we should provide a decent state pension that they can live on."

PCS figures from last year show the average civil service pension was £6000, and for lower-paid staff it was around £4200. Average pay was £22,850 a year, and 63% of civil servants earned less than £25,000.

PCS Scottish Secretary, Lynn Henderson explained the changes, which appeared in April's pay packets for the first time "...our members are already losing between £60 and £150 per month."

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of other public service workers. We are sending the clearest message to the government that we will defend our pensions to the hilt and the demand that our members should work longer, pay more and get less will be thrown back in the faces of this government of millionaire public schoolboys”.

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite  union, said: "Making British people work until they drop shows no care for the lives of ordinary people. How can it be that the seventh richest nation on the planet denies its people a healthy retirement?"

Nearly 80 per cent think it is ‘unfair’ we could be forced to work longer for our state pension than anyone else in  Europe. The  survey commissioned by the UK’s largest unions – Unite, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) – said 62% of people born before 1977 are ‘uncomfortable’ with the increase in the retirement age to 68 and the same number think raising the state pension age will hit the poorest pensioners hardest.

Throughout the world austerity packages are affecting those who were not responsible for the recession, but yet paying the price for the crisis. However,  those who caused  it are left untouched with profits soaring once more. Pensions are part of our wages that is deferred until you retire. All the talk about rising life expectancies are smoke screens designed to obscure this fact. Pensions are money being returned to us from the wealth that we ourselves have already collectively created and had stolen. It is workers who are the real wealth producers. Workers have to fight back and defend our pensions. If governments and employers win on pensions and wages they will try it again with something else.

But no matter how many work-place battles take place, we will always be facing another. Trade unions cannot perform miracles. Austerity and insecurity has always existed for the working class under capitalism. The solution is looking beyond. It is down to us to abolish the system that constantly requires us to fight off attacks against us. Capitalism generates problems it is incapable of solving.  And the remedy – the only permanent remedy – is to put an end to the property system that divides and oppresses us.

Hopefully, this strike will be another sign of a revival of the defensive class consciousness that trade union consciousness represents; which will make it easier for us to urge the next step: political class consciousness to win political control to end capitalism and bring in socialism as the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production for use not for the market or profit and distribution on the principle "from each their ability, to each their needs" not according to ability to pay.

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