The Progressive Left Should Support the Strikers

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)
  • 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%.





4 thoughts on “The Progressive Left Should Support the Strikers

  1. Thanks for the support, Garry! good post. What we need is for the private sector to support the injustices in public sector, …. And for the public sector to support the injustices in the private sector….. the government seeks to divide us. The workers, united, will never be defeated.


    • Thank you Pam.

      The division the Right make between private and public is entirely deliberate and designed to divide and conquer, as you correctly identify.

      This is really one battle in the war between the 1% and the 99%.


  2. Pingback: PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WORKERS – UNITE! | Think Left

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