Socialist Worker

Time to be audacious in pensions fight

by Barry Conway, branch secretary Bolton NUT
Issue No. 1938

Socialists and trade unionists should not underestimate the seriousness of New Labour’s assault on our pension rights.

It is central to their campaign to “remodel” the British labour force — producing a pool of cheap and flexible labour with no time limit on exploitation.

Until now, government attacks on pay and conditions have been fragmented, affecting different workers at different times.

The pensions issue cuts across all groups of workers — private, public and retired. It links the theft of private pension funds and the theft of the state pension to the theft of our labour — it highlights and generalises the economic tyranny of ageing, whether you are 18 or 80.

At the heart of our campaign in the Bolton branch of the NUT teachers’ union is the workplace meeting. We have sustained enthusiasm by continuing to talk about the government’s plans in the workplace.

It is the crucial collective forum for debate and proposals for action — among the very people who have the power to stop New Labour’s plans.

It doesn’t matter whether you work alongside five or 500 people, whether you are a shop steward or not, meetings are vital. Invite members of other unions along.

Be audacious. It’s the way to confound those who cynically try to use “inactivity by the members” as an excuse for capitulation.

Pensions are under attack in Britain, Europe and now the US, because providing proper pensions runs against the neo-liberal agenda of our rulers.

When we fight such policies, our actions highlight the inequities in our own society and the crazy priorities of spending billions on war while millions starve round the globe.

This begins the process of rebuilding our unions as organisations to defend us.

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Sat 12 Feb 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1938
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