So, why am I striking?
The government is continuing to persist in their unaffordable and unsustainable claims. The Hutton interim report published in October 2010 stated that as a percentage of GDP, the cost of public sector pensions will go from 1.9% to 1.7% by 2030 due to the reforms that happened in 2006 under the previous Government.
The government is deliberately being less than honest over the true impact of the pensions changes in order to meet their pre-election rhetoric. This is nothing more than playing games with people’s retirement plans.
The government is not negotiating. They are using classic bully-boy playground tactics with added “you won’t be my friend anymore” childishness. Threatening to withdraw an offer that hasn’t been formally put on the table and without consideration of any of the other negotiation points of the unions, such as age to start to withdraw pension, and use of CPI rather than RPI in indexation, is not negotiation in my book.
I object to the fact that my increased pension contributions is not going towards my final pension but instead to pay down the deficit. This is a tax imposed on workers who did the least to create the economic downturn and the targets should be the banks via a global transaction tax and hit the tax avoiders and evaders which would go much further to resolve the deficit problems that we have.
In addition, Andrew Lansley’s comment on BBC News this morning that there will be a 25 year deal is a non-starter. He simply cannot tie the hands of future parliaments and I will not have stability as I will (with luck) still be working in 33 years time. If I am to build up a little nest egg for when I am 68, I need to know now where I stand, and I don’t.
I am also a trade unionist. I represent members from workplace up to regional level. But I have been unsure over what it is the unions wants to achieve.
For the last ten years, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has said that we only strike as a last resort. Regrettably, on this occasion, the ballot for June 30 was a first resort. Before negotiations barely started. As if we were the scouts attempting to soften up the “enemy” before the masses going over the top.
The Unions have painted a picture of some kind of fantasy world in which we are living in our own Life on Mars regression to the seventies. I have heard and read people say that we must aspire to be the miners circa 1973. That all we need to do is to take part in a general strike and the government will fall under the strength of the protest (like we were living through the Arab Spring in an undemocratic Middle Eastern country), and then we will have an imaginary utopian government of national unity to replace a legitimately elected government.
Slight problem. Maggie Thatcher.
Maggie Thatcher was a game changer. Willing to stare down the unions, helped by an illegal strike action as Scargill did not ballot the miners, given carte blanche to change union laws in defiance of international standards leaving us with the second worse set of industrial laws in the west (after the United States).
That is the future of Industrial Action. We have the heirs of Thatcher in Government. Not the heirs of Heath. It therefore has to be about negotiation, not militancy.
I am losing patience with both sides, for god’s sake, use the Plan B, get round the table, put your ideological objections to the other to one side and get us a deal.
*The author has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since 1995 and is a Union Rep for the PCS in the East of England and is writing in a personal capacity.