Vote ‘Yes’ for strike action to defend our pensions

Leaflet from Camden UNISON explaining the threat posed to staff pay and pensions by the government’s proposed cuts and why we want members to vote Yes for coordinated strike action alongside millions of other public sector workers.

From Wednesday 12 October Camden UNISON members will be receiving ballot papers, along with more than one million other local government and NHS workers in UNISON. It will be an historic ballot for strike action against the Coalition Government’s attack on public sector pensions.

After months of fruitless talks with employers and politicians this issue has united unions representing teachers, local government workers, school support staff, college lecturers, health workers, civil servants and firefighters. All the unions involved have balloted or will soon ballot for strike action on 30 November, when more than three million workers could strike – the single biggest walkout since the 1926 General Strike.

There is no credible justification for this enormous assault on public sector pensions so we have blatant lying and misrepresentation by the Government and in the media. If the Government succeeds it will be a tragedy not only for workers now paying into pensions, but also for existing pensioners and the next generation to come.
The current attack is on several levels:

1. Increase contribution rates permanently by nearly 50% over three years from April 2012. Effectively, this is a pensions ‘tax’ as the money will not go to our pension scheme but to the Treasury to pay off the deficit. For every £10,000 you earn it will cost you £300 a year.

2. Uprate pensions by the consumer price index (CPI) and not by the higher retail price index (RPI), the historic measure. Over time this will wipe 15% off the value of a pension.

3. Abolish final salary and move employees to career average schemes.

4. Reduce the rate at which we earn our pension.  Now for every year we pay in we get 1/60th of our final salary as our pension.  The government has suggested cutting this down to 1/100th.

5. Increase the normal retirement age. If you are under 55 now you’ll work till you are 66, under 44 till 67, under 35 to 68. Life expectancy has increased, but there is a strong class bias. For the poor and manual workers there has been only a small rise. Many will have only a few years of retirement before death.

6. Ending the ‘Fair Deal on Pensions’ – removing protection from outsourced workers, making privatisation more profitable.

The lies

1. The schemes are unaffordable. Even Lord Hutton, who wrote the report the Coalition cites to justify its proposals, now admits the schemes are viable without any further reforms. In December 2010 the National Audit Office evaluated the 2007 reforms and showed costs would be stable or shrinking over the longer term. As this lie has been exposed the ground has shifted to the issue of ‘fairness’ in an attempt to pit private against public sector workers.

2. Public sector pensions are ‘gold-plated’ and much better than private sector workers’. Here are the facts: Average local government pension – about £4,000, for women £2,800. Average NHS pension, including top earners, is £7,000. It is true, however, that there are some ‘gold-plated’ public sector pensions. After 15 years in office MPs can retire on £24,000 a year!

Private sector pensions for ordinary workers have been slashed, with many retirees having to claim state benefits. But their greedy bosses have been accumulating gigantic pension pots. The average pension pot for a top company director is £3.91 million – providing an annual pension of £224,121. £10 billion of the annual £39 billion tax subsidy for pensions goes to those earning £150,000 or more.

In launching such an onslaught on our pensions the Government is taking a huge gamble. Thatcher only took on one group of workers at a time. The Coalition is attacking nearly half of the trade union movement at once and for all the lies about our pensions public opinion is still up for grabs. This attack can be beaten back – but only if we organise.
What you can do:

• If you are not already a UNISON member, join us NOW
• If you are in UNISON talk to your colleagues about pensions and joining
• Come to the branch meeting on 3 October at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, WC1 9BD
(very near Bidborough House)
• Encourage colleagues to attend the local UNISON meetings on pensions to explain the significance of the attack and discuss how we can fight back.
• Vote ‘Yes’ in the ballot and urge your colleagues to do the same
• For more information visit the branch website: http://camdenunison.org.uk
• Join in leafleting and other activities
• Any ideas for what more UNISON should be doing? Tell us!

Countdown to action:

• Camden UNISON branch meeting: 3 October
• Ballot papers go out to members’ home addresses: 11 October
• Ballot closes: 3 November
• First day of coordinated strike action: 30 November.

You can download this leaflet here and either print it or e-mail it to colleagues.

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