Around 1.5 million workers in the local government pension scheme (LGPS) are scheduled to start ballots next Tuesday for strikes over pensions.
It is crucial the ballots are won by big majorities and that serious, hard-hitting, united action is called as soon as possible. In total ten unions have called the votes over the abolition of the “rule of 85”.
This change will mean that many workers have to do an extra five years before they can collect their full pension.
At the moment, workers who have 25 years service can retire at 60. In the future that right will be wiped out. That means bin workers still doing the rounds and carrying heavy loads until they’re 65, after a lifetime’s toil.
It will mean more people dying before they even collect their pension.
If they still want to retire at 60, the average worker in the LGPS will get a pension that is nearly a third smaller. The average pension paid to a member of the local government pension scheme at the moment is just £3,800 a year—one tenth of an MP’s pension. But for women, who make up more than 70 percent of members, the average is just £1,600 a year.
The LGPS fightback is the sharpest confrontation in a much bigger battle.
Millions of workers across Britain, in the private as well as the public sector, want to see a fightback over pensions.
Figures released last week showed:
- More than 53,000 workplace pension schemes have closed since Labour came to power in 1997 and another 8,436 are in the process of being wound up. In all the retirement plans of more than one million workers have been thrown into doubt.
- Almost 13 million workers in Britain have no pension savings at all and will have to rely on the state pension, presently £82.05 a week, plus means tested benefits.
If the unions who have LGPS members launch real resistance – and that means escalating strike action involving all those balloted – they can be at the forefront of a fightback against a central plank of Labour’s neo-liberal policies.
Pressure must be built up to stop the union leaders running away from confrontation.
The assault on pensions is galvanising union branches. Liz Leicester, chair of Unison in Camden, north London, said, “We called a meeting last week to discuss pensions and about 300 members turned up.
“We heard guest speakers from other unions and we passed a motion supporting escalating strike action and calling for a yes vote in the strike ballot.
“We also discussed withdrawing some funding from the Labour Party if it presses ahead with these proposals.”