THE TUC has promised to organise one of its biggest demonstrations for years on Saturday 19 June. The unions are responding to a series of savage attacks on pension rights. The government plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 for teachers and civil servants, making them work longer for their pensions.
Many companies have closed their private pensions schemes. The state pension is pitifully low-and the government has refused to link it to earnings. Huge mobilisations across Europe have been fuelled by similar attacks on pensions.
In May last year two million public sector workers struck and 200,000 marched through Paris. In Austria up to 500,000 marched against pension cuts, during the country's first national strike in 50 years. Some 250,000 marched through Berlin two weeks ago over attacks on cuts to pensions and other benefits. And in October last year Italian unions organised a four-hour general strike against pension cuts.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber says, "Politicians of all parties have yet to appreciate the depth of our pensions crisis and are avoiding the really radical action that is needed if large numbers of today's workers are not to face poverty in retirement.
"That is why we are taking to the streets and inviting anyone to join us who agrees that it's time to pay up for pensions." The TUC is calling for the state pension to be linked to earnings, a new occupational pensions settlement based on compulsory contributions from employers and employees and more choice on retirement, not higher retirement ages.
The National Pensioners Convention supports the protest. All of the major unions are mobilising for it. Mary McGuire, spokesperson for Britain's biggest union, Unison, said, "We are looking for a mass turnout on 19 June to demonstrate our support for pensioners and opposition to any attempt to reduce pensions for public sector workers.
"Pensions are a ticking timebomb for the current generation of workers. We can't afford to have a generation of workers living on poverty pay and then cast into poverty in their retirement."
May Day protests planned
THE SOUTH East TUC and the anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance have united again this year to organise the annual march in central London on Saturday 1 May. The demonstration assembles at Clerkenwell Green at 12 noon and marches to Trafalgar Square.
Cardiff Stop the War Coalition have called a May Day protest against the bloody occupation of Iraq. It assembles at 1pm, Nye Bevan statue, Queen Street.