Socialist Worker

Unions have no time to lose in pensions fight

Union executive commitee members Nick Grant (NUT), Mark Campbell (UCU) and Andy Reid (PCS) put the case for more strikes

Issue No. 2289

All those unions that have rejected the government’s pensions deal held talks last week. These are set to continue to organise how to take the dispute forward—the talk is about striking at the end of March.

We will be fighting to ensure that more than one day of action is called and this is supplemented by rolling and sectional action. 

There is a huge feeling of anger over the government’s attacks among union members. They knew that it would take more than a one day strike to beat the Tories. They are looking for a lead.

Government ministers claimed they had made significant concessions at Christmas. But mugging someone for £100, then turning round to throw a tenner back at them before running off, is no concession at all. It is still a crime!

Union members still face the same fundamental attack that led to national strikes in 2011. It means huge hikes in monthly contributions, a totally unrealistic rise in the final pension age to 68, and a reduction of the payouts in retirement.

Our unions’ websites run pensions calculators. They show that workers will lose hundreds of pounds a year in increased contributions, despite minor changes from the government. Over an average retirement period it adds up to thousands.

The clearest change since the magnificent strike on 30 November has not been in ministers’ hostility but in the opposition’s capitulation. 

On the one hand nothing has changed in the objective terms of the pensions’ attack. But we now have to fight the media, employers and all the political mainstream—especially treacherous shadow ministers.

Nevertheless we are confident that we can swim against that defeatist tide. Already NUT, EIS, UCU and PCS have called for action in March. This would mean a strike of three quarters of a million workers.

Despite involving fewer workers than 30 November, such a strike would have an impact. And many more workers would not cross picket lines and would give solidarity.

There is no time to lose. We need to get the momentum of the dispute going again.

The Tories will take advantage of any more delay. They want the strikes to stop so they can get on with the other attacks they have planned.

Union activists in every workplace can bolster the confidence of their leaders by holding meetings which explicitly call for the necessary escalation of action.

We have the power to reverse their attacks and win decent public services for everyone.

The executive members write in a personal capacity


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