Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1939

More unions to join the pensions rebellion

This article is over 16 years, 11 months old
The general secretary of the Natfhe college lecturers’ union, Paul Mackney, tells Socialist Worker why his members are balloting for strikes
Issue 1939
Paul Mackney
Paul Mackney

This fight is crucial for current public sector workers—but also for future generations. In 20 years’ time, I don’t want to have to answer the question “Why did you let the government wreck our pensions?”

We have to do all that we can to stop this pensions robbery.

That’s one reason why I’m pleased that the 67,000 members of Natfhe will be balloting from 10 March for strike action on 14 April. Those of us closely involved in the union need to do all we can to ensure a good turnout and a high yes vote for action.

I hope as many members as possible get onto picket lines on 23 March to support the 1.25 million public sector workers who will strike that day. As well as providing solidarity, this will build confidence among our own members to vote yes in overwhelming numbers.

In the same way, the TUC day of action, which was set for Friday of this week, is important for showing those who are uncertain about balloting for strike action that such a call will get a good response.

We must maintain public campaigning to explain the issues around pensions to those affected and those who rely on the public services we provide.

It’s so important that unions work together on this issue and that’s why we have been discussing our proposals for action with other teacher unions. Unison is now consulting its members in the university sector about action.

It amazes me that New Labour claims we can’t afford decent pensions.

Only last week Gordon Brown was boasting that Britain has seen the most sustained economic growth for 200 years, that Britain is the fourth biggest economy in the world.

In the next breath, he tells us they can’t afford to fund education, health, pensions, and a decent transport system.

Gordon promised us he would use his war chest on public services. Instead he’s used it on an illegal and immoral war.

That says everything about New Labour’s priorities.

Teachers could join with lecturers to take action

It’s vital we take action on pensions. The NUT teachers’ union has begun a national survey of members. They need to get as many surveys back as possible by the 28 February deadline.

If the members vote for a strike ballot, it will be the first such ballot in nearly 20 years. It’s possible we could strike on 14 April alongside lecturers in further and higher education.

It’s clear that there is support for action across the union. Over 60,000 teachers sent postcards to the government opposing the pensions attacks and the call for action was unanimous on the union’s national executive.

Like many other teachers, I would like to see us out on strike with all the other public sector workers, including those unions that are not yet proposing action.

The other main teaching union, the NASUWT, has written to all its reps urging them to hold meetings in schools. I hope they, and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, join us in united action.
Bernard Regan NUT national executive (personal capacity)

Ucatt’s strike plans

The Government’s idea that council building workers should work until they are 65 is deplorable. Our jobs are very physically demanding and we need to maintain a retirement age of 60.

This is a major quality of life issue. If building workers have to work until they are 65, many of them won’t make it to retirement age. It’s a basic human right to be able to retire in health and dignity.

To make us work longer for our pensions is really stealing from our pay packets. Pensions are simply deferred wages.

It’s great that action is planned across local and central government unions together on

23 March. We need to strike as one to stop this.

In the recent strikes over London weighting, we could have won much more if we fought as a united public sector.

The unions need to tell the Labour government that we will not continue to support them unless they put forward an agenda for the working class, instead of one that attacks the fundamental rights we have fought for.
Tony O’Brien, Southwark Council Ucatt branch secretary

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