Socialist Worker

Pensions: Same fight across public and private sectors

by Dave Owens and Richard Buckwell
Issue No. 1942

Across Britain workers are organising to resist assaults on pensions. There is a feeling for action in many workplaces which could be tapped to build a serious campaign.

Around 20 activists from the PCS, Unison, T&G, NUT and FBU unions met in Liverpool on Wednesday of last week, at a meeting called by Merseyside trades council.

The meeting was called primarily to coordinate activity in the different unions in the run up to the planned strikes against New Labour’s attacks on pensions on 23 March.

It was agreed to call a demonstration through Liverpool city centre on the day of the strike and to reconvene when the strike ballot results in PCS and Unison are known.

Those unions not balloting for action, such as the NUT and FBU, will encourage their members to attend the march and rally.

Mark Serwotka spoke at a meeting of more than 60 PCS civil service workers’ union members and other public sector trade unionists in Nottingham on Wednesday of last week.

The meeting was called around the issue of attacks on public sector pensions, but also job losses and privatisation.

Mark Serwotka spoke about the need for unity and said the campaign should be based on opposing retirement being raised to 65.

Local MP and defence secretary Geoff Hoon endured nearly an hour of questioning by around 150 Ashfield Unison members on Friday of last week, over changes to their pension scheme.

The changes will make it financially impossible for most people to retire before 65, and the minimum age for retirement through redundancy will be raised from 50 to 55.

Many in the room had 20 or 30 years service in local government and would be hit by the changes, having paid into the scheme on the understanding that they would qualify for early retirement.

Geoff Hoon failed to persuade those at the meeting that the pension changes were in their interest.

The union branch secretary, commented, “It is to be hoped that Geoff Hoon gets the message that these changes are a vote loser for the Labour Party.”

Members of the T&G union at Imerys, formerly English China Clay, are launching a campaign against the attacks on their company pension scheme which would result in severely reduced pension benefits for thousands of workers in Cornwall.

T&G general secretary Tony Woodley has personally written to the firm to condemn the changes to the pension scheme and to urge the company to reverse its decision.

In the letter he says, “We are not prepared to accept any diminution in our members’ terms and conditions of employment, and in particular of their pensions’ benefits.”

At a meeting of shop stewards last week local T&G leaders pledged to take whatever action may be necessary—including a ballot for industrial action—to fight the company’s attacks.

Some 2,500 pension scheme members will see their pension benefits cut by as much as 40 percent.

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Sat 12 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1942
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