Socialist Worker

Leading trade unionists—why it's right to strike

Sally Hunt, Mark Serwotka, Dr Mary Bousted and Nina Franklin explain why their members will be out on 30 June

Issue No. 2258

‘Everyone has the right to a decent pension scheme’

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary

The scale of these strikes is a measure of widespread anger at the attack on public sector pensions.

If the government’s proposals go through, it will mean hard-pressed lecturers working longer, paying greater contributions and losing tens of thousands of pounds over the course of their retirement.

The government tells us that our members enjoy “gold-plated” pensions. Yet the average college lecturers’ pension is just over £6,000 a year for women.

Everyone—public and private sector workers alike—has the right to a decent pension scheme in retirement. Why should we all embark on a race to the bottom?

I see striking as a last resort. But we’ve been talking for months now and the government has made it clear that it does not intend to compromise.

It wants to save money from our members’ pensions to reduce a deficit incurred by the global financial crisis. Yet the bankers’ bonuses are not being touched.

After 30 June, if the government refuses to negotiate, education unions will need to continue to act together to make our voices heard.

‘We need to unite as many people as possible to stop the cuts.’

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary

When politicians say the strikes on 30 June won’t make any difference, I think the proof will be in the pudding.

I have no doubt that the day will be incredible.

They claim strikes are ineffective. But I think the anti‑cuts movement has needed strikes for a while.

The 30 June is about showing the government that we’re serious—and it’s a stepping stone to more unions taking action later this year.

We need to unite as many as possible to stop the cuts.

Thursday will be the biggest confidence boost for people. We need to follow it up with an even bigger strike.

I think the government is potentially weak. It is taking on so many different groups at once. We have to ask—can we push enough to make it fracture?

The real right wing ideologues understand how important our strike is. That’s why there’s a media onslaught against us.

If Unison come out later this year, everyone will follow suit. We are part of a process of building the confidence to make that happen.

‘We want to talk, but without a loaded gun to our heads’

Dr Mary Bousted ATL general secretary

We hope the strike on Thursday will concentrate ministers’ minds and make them realise the strength of feeling among teachers and lecturers against the fundamental changes it wants to make to their pensions.

We do not want to strike, but unless we take a stand now the government will irreparably damage education in this country, and children will lose out. Youngsters will not want to become teachers or lecturers.

Young teachers won’t be able to afford to join or stay in the pension scheme.

Older teachers will retire early.

We will lose good teachers, lecturers and heads.

Our members do not want a fight with the government.

If the government had abandoned its completely unfair proposal to announce a rise in pension contributions before we have even begun to discuss the details of reforming pensions, there would be no need to strike.

We want to talk, but without a loaded gun to our heads.

‘It’s clear the government is not acting in good faith’

Nina Franklin NUT president

There has been a fantastic response to our calls for action. It is clear that the government is not acting in good faith.

We expect unprecedented support for Thursday’s strike.

The NUT will not accept paying more and working longer for less pension.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.