Socialist Worker

All out on 23 March to save our pensions

John McLoughlin, chair of Tower Hamlets local government Unison, says we need to convince workers they can defeat the government on this issue

Issue No. 1937

IMAGINE MORE than one million workers on strike over pensions less than three months before a general election. Wednesday 23 March could be the biggest single strike day in Britain for over 20 years. The anger that people feel about having their old age stolen from them is growing stronger. Workers know that the longer you work, the earlier you die.

That’s why there was a momentous vote for strike action in the recent Unison local government indicative ballot. Around 75 percent of members voted for action, and the union is now balloting 800,000 workers over a strike on 23 March. That anger is why thousands more in local and national government unions, such as the civil service workers’ PCS and the local government section of the T&G, could join with us to stop much of the public sector that day.

Pensions is a major issue for all of us. It goes to the heart of the question of what type of society we live in and what future we want for ourseleves and our children. Britain is the fourth richest country in the world. Yet we spend half as much on pensions as most European countries.

To rub it in, only last week the government relaxed the rules for taxing the pensions of the rich, giving them a £4 billion handout. On top of this, we have had 25 years of watching our state pensioners get poorer and poorer.

Raising the pension age to 65 for five million public sector workers is a matter of life and death. The Treasury and all the pension fund operators know this—after all they calculate your pension on how long they think it will be until you die.

Ending the final salary scheme is going to make us poorer. All the talk of a “career average” scheme bringing equality for women is nonsense from a Labour Party that decided to increase the state pension age for women to 65!

Millions of workers know the injustice of the attacks. We need to convince those millions that we have the power to win. In every workplace we need to disprove the myths about pensions and campaign for a huge yes vote in any ballot. Blair is limping to the general election with many Labour voters furious at the lies over the war in Iraq, privatisation and attacks on the welfare state. That fury can be turned into the kind of strike action over pensions we have seen in Europe.

We need petitions, placards, leaflets and posters in every public sector workplace and beyond to win the ballots and carry the arguments that this has to be the beginning of the action, not the finale. The day of action called by the TUC on Friday 18 February is a crucial date in making sure we get yes votes in the ballots.

We can also let Labour MPs know that we will not simply be voting fodder for the third term — we want them to oppose Blair and Brown on this.

The bigger the protests on 18 February, the bigger the yes vote will be. The wider the involvement of all workers on 18 February, the more chance of pushing for strikes across the whole five million affected.

On 18 February we could show our union leaders that other workers also want to have strike ballots. Everyone — whether a public sector worker or not — needs to get behind the fight to stop the pensions robbery.

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Pensions factsheet

A must for every public sector workplace

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