PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WORKERS – UNITE!

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The TUC  public sector strike on November 30th is , in effect, a General Strike, the biggest concerted  day of action since the General Strike in 1926.  The attack on public sector pensions follows months of pay freezes, cuts to staffing, to budgets affecting working conditions, extending working hours and adding to stress levels, with inevitable effects on the mental and physical health of workers.

Lies about the previous government’s deficit and the need to cut public expenditure has been justification for cuts to the public sector, and the lie that fair pensions are unaffordable is similar justification in their eyes. Lies, lies and constant government propaganda which amounts to drip fed indoctrination aimed to frighten the electorate, to divide the working class into public and private sectors, each blaming the other for the country’s ills.

MYTH: The private sector props up the public sector

“It is not a one-way street, but a complex relationship. Public sector workers and employers pay for the vast majority of pensions in payment through contributions.  Without an effective public sector, the private sector would be far less productive. The public sector contributes significantly to GDP and it is entirely unfair to suggest that the public sector is any way a drain on the private sector.” TUC Myths and Pensions

MYTH: Public sector workers all have comfortable pensions

“Five million employees working in the public sector qualify for pensions, including 1.3m in NHS, 1.6m in local government, 600,000 teachers, 600,000 civil servants, 200,000 in the armed forces, 150,000 police officers and 50,000 firefighters. The mean average public sector pension is £7,000 but the majority of public sector pensioners have pensions of less than £5,000. The average public service pension is around £7,800 a year, for women working in local government the average is £2,800 a year, while the median for women working in the NHS is £3,500 a year: hardly huge pensions. Saving towards an occupational pension in many cases means a person is receiving fewer welfare benefits during retirement, saving the taxpayer money.”

MYTH: Public sector  workers are lazy and inefficient

In 2010, a study found that public sector workers do an estimated 120 million hours of unpaid overtime a year – the equivalent of employing an extra 60,000 people.   They went on to claim that 46 per cent of employees in education, health and social care in the “non-profit sector” work unpaid overtime, compared with 29 per cent of their counterparts in the private sector.

MYTH: Losses to jobs in the public sector will be replaced by jobs in the private sector 

If David Cameron expected this to be the case, he has been proved wrong ( See C4 News). Job losses caused by cuts to the public sector will not be replaced. Increasingly we hear of firms making job cuts despite their profits, for example Top Shop owner Philip Green has announced further job cuts despite profits. People fear for jobs and won’t spend.

The private sector workers, are seen by many in the public sector as being on high salaries, inflated incomes with perks such as cars, private health schemes. It may be evident that some industries pay ridiculous salaries to directors and this is what springs to mind to those working in the public sector. The reality is that the profits are not fairly distributed. The toils of the workers in the private sector are not fairly rewarded. Salaries have not kept up with inflation. Demands from employers and union rights are not universal. Women in particular may face discrimination.

MYTH: All private sector workers all are paid high salaries 

Lowest and Highest Pay Top Ten Data from ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) for ONS, and published in the Guardian shows median salaries for 2010 and 2011, shows the highest and lowest median salaries. It is interesting data and clearly shows that many in the private sector are on very low pay.

It shows that roles which have been historically carried out by are women are particularly low-paid. It also shows that pay cuts seem to be hitting the poorest paid most. It does not show the whole picture however and there are several important pay factors that Ashe cannot show.

  1.   The data only applies to employees on company payrolls, so cannot reflect the earnings of the self-employed entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities who between them constitute many of the country’s really top earners.
  2.  The survey only measures base pay and does not take into account additional methods of reward such as bonuses, pension payments, share options and so on.
  3. It cannot reveal the earnings of those with multiple income streams, such as legal and accounting partners, or directors of multiple companies.

This may explain why Ashe figures for directors and financial workers, although top ranked, look surprisingly low. The median full-time base pay in this category rose by 15.3% this year, partly due to a trend of shifting executive earnings away from bonuses and towards basic pay. If the sectors as a whole are compared we can see that the gap between public and private sector pay is at its highest in ten years, as Richard Murphy writes.

MYTH Private sector offers better prospects, perks and conditions for its workers. 

“It’s an inconvenient truth, (PCS Union) that the press who look for negative reporting of trade unions, in saying that they are outdated and membership is declining fail to explain the full story. In fact any declining membership is directly connected to overall job losses in that sector.  They decline to explain about the union wage premium  which refers to the degree that union wages exceed non union wages.”

The last BIS report (2010) re-affirms the importance of the union wage premium, in that:-

  • Collective agreements cover 64.5 per cent of public sector employees and 16.8 per cent of private sector employees
  • The hourly earnings of union members is reported to average £14 in 2010, 16.7 per cent more than the earnings of non-members (£12).
  • The union wage premium is much larger for employees in unionised sectors than their non-unionised counterparts.
Hourly wage rates for (unionised) public sector employees were 21.1 per cent higher among union members than non-members and 6.7 per cent higher in the (less unionised) private sector. PCS members working on Hewlett Packard central government contracts currently have an opportunity to ‘opt in’ to collective bargaining and it is no accident that the company is making opting in look as unattractive as possible. 
A member said: “I took the decision to opt-in in 2010, when my salary was £17,500. Since then I am looking at over a £1,300 consolidated pay increase on my salary with most of that increase counting towards my pension.”   
One member commented: “As a low paid HP employee ‘My choice’ has me trapped in a downwards pay spiral. For the last five years my pay has been frozen whilst my costs of living have been rising and I have to sell my benefits simply to stay afloat.”  

And so it remains true, many in the private sector are denied rights to fair pay and conditions, while in many cases massive profits are being made at the workers’ expense. All workers’ rights to be a member of a trade union and the potential benefits must be preserved. The very rich and the Tories will look after their own. So, too, workers must support each other, in unison.

MYTH Private Sector workers  have great pensions 

Private sector employees have been hit hard by the employer retreat from good pensions. But this does not justify punishing public sector workers. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The real inequality exists in the private sector, where highly paid executives receive the real gold-plated pensions. The TUC’s 2008 Pensions Watch study of 346 directors from 102 of the UK’s top companies found that they are set to earn a yearly pension of £201,7003. This is 25 times the average workplace pension that ordinary workers receive (£8,100).

Private sector schemes need to be funded because there can be no guarantee that the sponsoring employer will still be around when staff retire. Public sector employers, ie the state, will exist in perpetuity and, as in other countries such as the USA, we tend to have unfunded pensions for central government functions such as health and the armed forces but funded schemes in local government.

The study also revealed that the most senior directors of these firms had average pension funds of £5.2m, with an annual pension forecast of £333,400. In reality, most directors of the UKs largest private sector companies can look forward to retiring on a full pension at age 60, accrued on generous terms in a final salary scheme.”

WHY WE WORK

Let’s take a step aside, those of us that are lucky to be in work are motvated by a number of reasons.

  1. We need to work to live
  2. We may want to make a difference to other people’s lives
  3. We want the opportunity to use our skills
  4. We enjoy the social contact which work brings to us
  5. We want to contribute to society

Most of us go to work for all of those reasons, but , let’s face it, it is the first and foremost which gets us out of bed on wet, foggy November mornings.

THE REALITY WHICH DIVIDES SOCIETY

One thing is certain, none of us go to work in order to line the pockets of the very rich. When we pay our taxes, even if we do so grudgingly, we know – and hope that – that investment will be returned to us, if we are too ill to work, to pay our pensions when we are old, if we have children who need care, to provide homes, roads, hospitals and schools. We are not happy that people in poorly paid jobs pay taxes disproportionately compared with those on inflated salaries. In contrast, those that make profits of millions and billions from the toil of poorly paid people in the private sector pay no tax at all.Their funds are secretly  hidden in “ made up” City-States which make their own tax rules, where nobody really lives and works. Yet that money may have been made from retail workers at your local shop, or by teachers at some new Free School sponsored by some private company using assets stolen from the British people.

These are the enemy of the workers.   We call for the Public and Private workers  to unite! Support each other! Support the trade unionists who fight on, despite attempts from Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill, and David Cameron to defeat them.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs went to the ends of the earth to stand up for the rights of workers. Thatcher sullied the name of Trade Unions. Let us remember what we owe to them, and support the rights of workers everywhere.

Unemployment is soaring; now at 8.3% of the work-force. There are over one million unemployed young people. Where is the sense to insist people work  well into their sixties if they feel spent and ready to enjoy a deserved retirement. Just to deny them the pension they have paid for. To save money? All this will be to the cost of the young to whom the nation must pay dole rather than pay well-earned and well-deserved pensions to the more mature population. This is absurd!  There are now the highest number of female workers out of work for twenty-three years. The increase in female unemployed is directly related to the attack on the public sector, where workers are predominantly female. Do not be fooled. It suits the Tories for unemployment levels to be high – it enables them to cut wages, to make more profits for their friends. It engenders fear – it  pitches public against private -, private against public – social friction which detracts from the real enemy , the plutocrats that have increasing power over us throughout our daily lives. Poverty will increase, hunger , homelessness and suicides. And therein is fuel for the far right, as in the nineteen thirties. It suits them to believe the workers have not noticed, that we are besotted by X factor and Big Brother. They are wrong, three quarters of the electorate in a recent Mori poll think that the government have done a poor job in keeping unemployment down.

The government  under-estimates the working -class- all of us who go to work, for that is what we are – not Class A, B or C – we are all workers.

Labour Party Policy must address:

Trade union rights for all

Inequality in the workplace and in pay

Redistribution of wealth including a modernised clause 4 and workers co-operatives

Tax Injustice

It might seem an old cliché, but it is true. The workers, united, will never be defeated. And it will be forever true. But divided, we fall. They win.

Think Left On The Public Sector Strike:

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

TUC Day of Action, November 30 Think Left

The Progressive Left should support the Strikers Think Left

OTHER REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Richard Murphy: Why Tax Evasion matters so much 

Red Pepper Union Mythbuster

Public Sector Pensions: Myths TUC 

Pension   UNISON

PCS The inconvenient truth of trade union membership

George Osborne and Norman Lamont -Unemployment Guardian 

General Strike 1926 

Lowest Paid jobs in UK November 2011, Guardian 

Highest Paid jobs in the UK November 2011, Guardian

TAEN Experts in Age and Employment Blog

Mori Poll October 2011

Unemployment Figures October 2011

Top Shop job cuts, Daily Mirror

Poverty and Suicides

Do cuts kill? Guardian –  on suicide

Tolpuddle Martyrs

David Cameron – attack on unions, Daily Mirror

Margaret Thatcher -attack on unions -BBC 

The Miner’s next step Churchill attack on miners with troops Tonypandy

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 
 

Mutation or Mutiny?

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Mutation or Mutiny?

Homo Sapiens – What have we become as a species? No longer programmed for survival of our species, we appear to be about to self-destruct.

No longer do we prioritise protection of our young, our water, our food or shelter, as living species generally do.  We have evolved into something else, which isn’t quite alive at all. We are no longer autonomous beings.

We are products, or a commodities, which cannot think, but rather exist merely to make profit, remotely controlled by the very, very rich from some place we are unaware of.

How much longer can be tolerate this mundane existence? Now is the time for change.  But how?

THE ARAB SPRING  brought about governmental changes for Tunisia, Egypt and for Libya, amid demonstrations across North Africa and the Middle East. Whether these changes will have fair and democratic results, and achieve recapitalization of the people with health, wealth and happiness for real people remains to be seen.  The instigation of a no-fly zone by the United Nations bore little resemblance to the airstrikes and drones from the US led onslaught. What support was offered to those areas where there is no oil for pickings? See Libya: Into Economic tyranny 

Occupy London calls for global solidarity to defend the Egyptian revolution.

“We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others causing this oppression. 

 

The arab people have since this winter been an incredible inspiration to resistance movements all over the world. We stand in solidarity with our Egyptian sisters and brothers and we:

  • We urge the UK government to withhold all support to the Egyptian military until power has been handed over to a civilian government and cease participating in arms deals in the region.
  • Condemn the Egyptian military’s massacre at Maspero and all the military and police violence against peaceful protesters and demand impartial investigations into all these cases.
  • Demand an end to military trials in Egypt and all intimidation of activists.
  • Demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and detainees and for any trials to be before civilian courts with fair representation.
  • Demand immediate lifting of state of emergency in place since 1981 and the guarantee of the right to protest and strike.
  • Cameron, BAE, Rolls Royce, Qinetiq and all, you might be able to airbrush your propaganda but you can’t wash the blood off your hands.

THE RIOTOUS SUMMER  in England showed the anger of those without hope, with nothing left to risk. The official report disregarded events in Croydon, as reported by the Croydon Guardian. The official report lacks understanding.

The Independent reports that the riots were considered by the Cabinet Office to be a “moment of madness”.

The opportunity to “get free stuff” and the chance to get back at police were the other two big motivations, according to the report, “The August riots in England”, from the National Centre for Social Research.

Researchers identified peer pressure, the sight of other people getting away with breaking the law, boredom and acting as part of a group instead of thinking for themselves as factors in nudging people to take part.

It seems to me that they have missed the point.  Riots do not happen without reason. The balance of civilisation depends on all those in society belonging to it, not owned by it. While the government chooses to ignore the causes, others take it seriously, and wisely so. (See  Empire of Things  and Riots, Behaviouralism and Neoliberalism.)

THE REBELLIOUS  AUTUMN began with The Occupy Protests, showing hope that there was to be an awakening to consciousness.

Some in the Church considered their consciences, but the events at St Pauls showed that the Church are not willing to risk their comfortable status by standing with the protestors. Some of them called out, “What would Jesus do?”

The ignorance of the authorities is clear by their response to student protests in November which have been met by over-policing.

Thousands of students and demonstrators marched through London to protest against tuition fees and the “privatisation” of the higher education systemon Wednesday, flanked by a huge police presence determined to ensure the violent scenes that erupted last year were not repeated.

Fulfilling their promise of “total policing”, 4,000 officers took to the streets as Metropolitan police commanders blocked off large areas of the capital, bringing in dozens of mounted officers and blocking off roads with 10ft high barricades.

Protesters from the Occupy movement – which has been at St Paul’s Cathedral since mid-October – set up camp in Trafalgar Square with the aim of remaining until the mass strike of 30 November. They were quickly moved on by police, who also announced “additional conditions” for the march after it had begun.

On November 30th 2011, three million public sector workers in Britain will strike over the government’s attacks on their pensions. The establishment needs to start listening. They cannot turn a blind eye, or act like ostriches. This coordinated strike action represents the biggest strike movement since the general strike in 1926. To all intents and purposes it will be a 24-hour public sector general strike.    

With a National Strike by 3 million trade union members against pension reforms expected on November 30th, is the government going to show they are listening? Or are they powerless like Italy and Greece, so it makes no difference?   

Michael Meacher writes ” So the honest and decent Papandreou is forced out because he wanted to give the Greek people, who would bear the weight of the cutbacks, a chance to express whether they accepted them, however reluctantly, or whether they would take the alternative option of a default and leaving the euro.   The corrupt and despicable Berlusconi is forced out because he cannot lever his own parties in Parliament to force through the cutbacks demanded by the bond markets, without the Italian people being granted any say-so in the matter at all.   Democracy in the EU is now virtually a dead letter.   It was always precarious: neither the Council of Ministers nor the Commission are directly elected.   Now what has been highlighted is that when it comes to the really big decisions neither the European Parliament nor the peoples of Europe have any say in them at all. “

All  seems to have become overshadowed by the Euro zone crisis has seen political leaders with no real power in any case, pushed from office.

Are we now looking at the people reclaiming their rights patiently by Evolution, or bloody and violently by Revolution? Will it be mutation or mutiny? What discontent do we face this winter and beyond?

I believe that we can bring about change, but only by standing together, side-by-side. Solidarity, like Socialism were words to be whispered ashamedly during the eighties but they now are meaningful and acceptable once again.

We can bring about change by questioning the Banks’ motives, by exposing the secrecy, by questioning the politicians, the church and the media.

We will not achieve change by division, but by solidarity. I believe The Labour Party is the only Party, which can challenge the status quo – the Conservative Party will not do this – The Liberal Democrats have shown no intention in challenging the neo-liberalist consensus. Socialist Labour must lead the way.

Ed Miliband has described the Occupy London protest and others across the world as a ‘wake-up call’ and a symptom of a wider crisis caused by Eurozone turmoil, record unemployment, rising inflation and squeezed living standards.Miliband looked to use the actions of Occupy to reiterate the messages unveiled at the last Labour Party conference, where he vowed to rid the country of ‘irresponsible, predatory capitalism’. He added that politicians were in touch with the wealthy elite but were ‘badly out of touch with the reality facing the other 99 per cent’.

Labour must now find its roots again. Labour politicians need to re-find their integrity and speak up and lead like Aneurin Bevan once did so admirably. We need modern day politicians to represent us, like he did and not to follow the neo-liberalists like the Pied Piper led the children to their own extinction. Now is the time for mankind to remember what it is to breathe, to live and to hope. 

Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy writes:

First, to point out that the UK’s economic recovery started faltering before the Eurozone problems. This will require lots of graphs and easily accessible info in one place, and a sustained attempt to point this out to the media.

Second, it will require the left (and more importantly Labour) to have a strong counter-narrative that works, can unite everyone, and works in their favour. Something like: ‘This crisis shows our financial institutions have stopped working for ordinary people – they are being hurt by a crisis they didn’t create. It’s time to reform the world’s financial system and make it work. The Conservatives won’t do that.’

Get the narrative wrong and we’ve effectively lost this entire generation.

Sometimes I think that it might help to believe in some god, which could magically lead the way to socialism. But I know there is no magic in the sky, my belief is in people not gods. And it is we who can achieve a fairer society, a socialism in a greener world.

If I say to you, “if I share, will you?” or “If I fight against unbridled capitalism and neo-liberalism, will you?”, do you see me as naïve, or do you too, still believe that the human species can determine its own destiny and join me?

If that is so, that is my faith – humanity.

Let us hope .

 Empire of Things Think Left

Riots, Behaviouralism and Neoliberalism  Think Left

Britain Under Siege Think Left

Capitalism, NeoLiberalism, Plutonomy, and Neo -Feudalism Think Left

The Human Body: A Source of Profit Think Left

The market has a name – it is Goldman Sachs  Think Left

Michael Meacher Blog Marketised Euro Oligarchy

Homo Sapiens Origin and Evolution

Ed Miliband on Occupy Protest  Nov 2011

Student Protest and over-policing Guardian Nov 2011

Occupy London to mark Remembrance Weekend

Meacher Why is resistance coming from the street and not politics?  

The Labour Party

Liberal Conspiracy : Euro Crisis could set left back a generation

Unison: November 30

NUT: November 30

NIPSA November 30

PCS November 30