We will not cease from mental fight, nor let swords sleep in our hands.

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Blake’s “Jerusalem”  

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green: 
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

 
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills? 

And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? 

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire! 

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land 
 

The Progressive Left Should Support the Strikers

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As the 30th November public sector strike beckons, the war of words between the Government and the Unions has intensified [1].

It is quite clear the David Cameron very keen to persuade the country where the blame for any disruption incurred:

“Everyone should be clear there is going to be disruption and the reason for that disruption, the responsibility for that disruption , lies squarely with the trade union leaders”

 

Over 2 million members of the following unions are due to take part:

  • The Association of Educational Psychologists
  • Aspect
  • Association of Teachers and Lecturers
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  • Educational Institute of Scotland,
  • First Division Association
  • GMB
  • National Association of Head Teachers
  • Napo (family court and probation staff)
  • NASWUT
  • Northern Ireland Public Service Association
  • National Union of Teachers
  • Public and Commercial Services Union
  • Prospect
  • Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
  • Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
  • Society of Radiographers
  • Ucac (one of the Welsh teachers’ unions)
  • Union of Construction,
  • Allied Trades and Technicians
  • University and College Union
  • Unison
  • Unite

The principle dispute is about changes to the pensions scheme, which would increase personal contributions and the retirement age, a change from RPI annual increases to CPI annual increases and base the final pension pension on the average career salary rather than the final salary.

The Government claims the current scheme is unaffordable in the long term, and increased longevity means that  changes must be made.

A report by Lord Hutton [2], the basis for reforms, actually predicts the the current system would fall from costing the the tax payer 1.9% of GDP in 2010-11 to 1.4% in 2059-60

A myth that public sector pensions are ‘gold-plated’ is certainly in circulation.  However, the mean public sector pension in £7,000, and the majority are under £5,000. The TUC have documented this myth and others here [3]

The progressive left should support the public sector workers for several reasons.

Firstly, the evidence shows that the vast majority of public sector workers get only a modest pension. A modest but secure pension is part of the deal the tax payer makes to public servants. Our Teachers, Fire Fighters, Nurses and Council Workers do a good job – they deserve recognition for this public service.

Secondly, but more crucially, is the fact that the Coalition are embarking on a programme to privatise our public services.  The NHS bill currently going through Parliament will hand the Nation’s most loved and trusted asset to the private sector. Public sector workers are one of the cornerstones in defending public services from an irreversible transition to private corporatism.

It could be argued that as we are all living longer, and at some point the retirement age of 65 will probably need to change. However, this is a small issue, and over time it probably will. Compared to the threat of the privatisation of our public services, it is small beer.

Much criticism of public sector pensions comes from comparisons with private sector ones. This is at the heart of my concerns. Good private pensions have diminished greatly, and the left knows that privatisation all too frequently becomes a race to the bottom. A public service with less pension liabilities is also much easier to privatise.

What is needed is a Government willing to say that too many private schemes are poor, with high fees and management costs. Too much relies on the performance of the highly variable and downright unreliable stock market. Private pensions should be raised to the standard of public sector pensions.

This what the left does at its best – it raises aspirations that the 99% need not rely just on the crumbs the 1% leave behind.

So if you want to support the campaign to keep our public services, please support the strikers on the 30th November.

They are fighting for the 99%.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15871340

[2] http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/hutton_final_100311.pdf

[3] http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/publicsectorpensions.pdf

TUC Day of Action on Public Service Pensions on 30 November 2011.

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Campaign film for the TUC Day of Action on Public Service Pensions on 30 November 2011.

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We could stop the cuts: we can collect tax due instead. That way we all win.

Richard Murphy has published his new research for The Tax Justice Network which estimates tax evasion for 145 countries in the world covering 98% of world GDP between them…..  $3.1 trillion to illegal tax evasion.

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/11/25/collect-the-evaded-tax-avoid-the-cuts/

… the findings show that tax evaded in the UK might be £69.9bn a year….

…  Despite government claims that they are tackling this issue they’re still planning to cut 12,000 jobs at HM Revenue & Customs over the next few years; job losses that will simply deny our tax authority the people needed to chase tax due by cheats in this country. That makes no sense. Twenty thousand new staff at HMRC could transform government finances and with it the state of our national economy. Tackling tax evasion is in the national interest and in the world’s interest. Now we know just how much tax is evaded a new strategy for tackling the world’s deficits is available.

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Who could possible disagree?  It has to be the Tory-LD government, the political wing of the City of London and the UK’s most ancient tax haven…. home of the 1%.

Support the strike on 30th November 2011.