Over two-thirds of those striking on 28 March will be women. Most get smaller pensions than average because they get lower pay, often work part?time, and, in many cases, have breaks from paid work to care for children or other family members.
Val Daines is a nursery nurse and Unison rep at Pudsey Bolton Royd primary school near Leeds.
She told Socialist Worker, “The pensions changes that the government wants to put through are an appalling attack on people who are already low paid.
“I have worked for nearly 30 years for this education authority but I am on only around £14,500 a year. Our job is crucial to children’s education.
“Parents watching would be unable to distinguish the job we do from the job of the qualified teacher we work alongside.
“But a teacher who is employed now will be able to retire at 60 and the nursery nurse will have to go on for five more years to get a full pension.
“I’m 50 and I would be looking to retire in ten years time – but I won’t be able to if the government gets its way.
“It’s a disgrace that a Labour government is attacking us like this.
“They demand more and more from us, and load on extra responsibilities. They want highly skilled labour on the cheap, and on top of that they’re actually making our conditions worse.”
Tina McMullen, a classroom assistant at the same school, says, “I have worked here for seven years and each year there are extra responsibilities and duties. We used to be seen as the mums’ army who did very basic tasks. But it’s nothing like that.
“We do crucial work, especially with more challenged and vulnerable children.
“I get just £7.90 an hour – and nothing in the holidays – so I’m not looking at a great pension anyway.
“We’re treated with respect by the school, but we feel very undervalued by the government. They pay us very little, they constantly ask for extra work and now they want to grab our pittance of a pension as well.”
Liz Cushnie, who works at the direct labour organisation in Dundee, says, “There is a strong feeling for action and it’s important to make the strike as active as possible.
“We’re having a local rally in Dundee which we hope can be a focus for everyone.
“If we don’t fight around pensions then worse will follow. The government and the employers are already talking about dismantling national pay bargaining.
“They want to reduce our sick pay and car allowances. If they think they get away with this, then they won’t waste any time getting rid of our other rights.”
Dundee Unison member Arthur Nicoll adds, “We recently had a meeting of the city’s shop stewards’ liaison committee, with around 40 people present.
“It was clear this strike is not just about the industrial issue of just pensions. There is also a very strong feeling about the way Labour has let us down.
“Trade unionists increasingly want to know why we are giving money to Labour when they are attacking us over central issues like pensions.”