The 30 November (‘N30’) could prove a truly historic day; a day that starts to put the brakes on the offensive by the current Tory-led government not only on our pensions, but also on our pay, our jobs and the services we provide. But to make the day historic both locally and beyond will require the active participation of Camden UNISON members on a scale we have not seen before.
First and foremost, the action called for this Wednesday is about the defence of our deferred wages, our pension schemes. The Government, contrary to what many media reports have suggested, has yet to make any new offer. From April 2012 all of us will be expected to pay more, while the vast majority of us will be expected to work longer and receive less in retirement. The increased employee contributions from next April will not go towards our pension scheme, but instead will be a kind of tax, as the money will to the Treasury as part of the deficit reduction programme. In short, we are once more being forced to pick up the tab for the bailout of the banks and other City institutions.
Some may believe that they cannot afford to strike against the background of the pay freeze and rising inflation, but the loss of a single day’s pay will be swiftly outweighed by the increase in pension contributions that will hit everyone on full-time equivalent earnings of more than £15,000 a year, as the table below illustrates:
Salary Added contributions from April 2012 April 2014
£25,000 £175 £450
£35,000 £245 £665
£45,000 £450 £810
£55,000 £550 £990
In short, the question is not whether you can afford the deduction of one day’s pay in mid-January, but whether you can afford not to take a decisive stand against this pensions robbery.
Some may believe that we cannot win against the Government. Obviously, there is no guarantee of victory, but we must recognise that if we do not mount a fight we will surely lose. We should take heart that despite the constant lies about our ‘gold-plated’ pensions and the Government’s hypocritical concern for the fate of private sector workers, stripped of their pension rights, a BBC poll (28 November) shows that 61% of more than 1,000 people believed the N30 strikes were justified. The fact that we are now taking a stand has also spurred a huge rise in applications to join with more than 120 new members in Camden alone since late September and a 126% increase nationally.
To be frank, I am not convinced that one day’s action will on its own halt the Government’s offensive and secure the pension schemes for ourselves and future generations of workers, so we may need to brace for further strikes in early 2012. But unless N30 attracts the active support of UNISON members and other trade unionists in their hundreds of thousands then the attacks will only intensify and will be increasingly powerless to resist.
At the very least, I would ask all members, bar the very few, who have been exempted from the action, to honour picket lines and not work from home. I would also strongly encourage you to join a picket line outside your workplace from 7.00 AM on the day and, if at all possible to be part of the rally outside Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, WC1. The day will also include a march from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2 (near Holborn station), culminating in a rally around the corner from Parliament on the Victoria Embankment, SW1 at 2.00 PM.
Camden UNISON Branch Secretary
59 Phoenix Road
London NW1 1ES.