Thursday, 30 June 2011

Pensions: Speech to Edinburgh TUC Rally on PCS strike day

I’m proud to be here from UNISON to bring a message of solidarity to the workers on strike today. You are leading the way today in the face of the most indecent, vicious and self-serving attacks on our people in a generation. And you take on that fight in the face of many enemies.

Enemies like the Tories and the media who say we’re feather-bedded. They say we’re greedy.

Greedy for getting a pension we’ve paid for?

Greedy for asking for our fair share?

Greedy for less than the £90 a week that most public service pensioners will get?

And that has already been cut by up to 15% because the Tories have fiddled the index-linking by using the lower inflation figure.

I'll show you greedy.

Millions of pounds worth of golden handshakes for top managers who are sacked for being crap at their jobs and losing their companies millions. Billions in bonuses for making a dog’s breakfast of the banking system.
Fat cat pensions for private sector bosses? An index linked MP’s pension?

Or a home carer dedicating their lives to looking after others, being forced to work on rather than retire.
Or the average pension for our women members of just £3,000 a year?

No, colleagues, we are not all in this together.

But as trade unionists. As decent workers looking for dignity in retirement.
Yes, then we are all in that together.

We are standing with you today as I know you will stand with us as we face our own inevitable strike action in the Autumn.

We’ve seen all over the media the attacks on our pensions.

Led by politicians who will never have to worry about a pension.

Backed up by big business who made a hash of their pension schemes, took pensions holidays, spent the pension fund on something else and now want us to pay for it while they keep their own gold-plated pensions.

And sadly, members of the public who say ‘I’ve got a crap pension – so everyone else should also have a crap pension.’

Where in heaven’s name has our dignity and self respect gone?

This is not – and has never been – a public versus private campaign.

For every 1 job that that’s cut in the public sector, at least 1 job goes in the private sector.

The ideological attack is not jut on public services, it is on workers in the private sector, forcing a low pay economy so that the big guys can line their pockets.

The solution is not to lie back and accept rubbish pensions then demand rubbish pensions for everyone else.
The solution is for us all to stand together – public and private - for decent pensions for everybody.

Because nothing is inevitable in these cuts.

They don’t make economic sense.

In 1948 the debt was almost five times higher and we built the National Health Service.
Debt repayments under Thatcher were higher than they are now.

The Tory con about the economy is all about an ideological attack on our people and our services – nothing more.

Previous governments invested in the way to recovery. And it can be done again, if everyone pays their fair share.

Like the businesses and individuals who steal billion upon billion by not paying their taxes.
There is no shortage of money – it’s just in the wrong hands.

Have the media, the politicians and even the economists learned nothing from Ireland?
Years of austerity wrecking the economy, more debt, more cuts, more unemployment, more attacks on conditions, more austerity – and then – unbelievably – the cure for all that, is more cuts and austerity!

It just does not work. And it’s not just me saying that, although I’m sure you don’t doubt me.
It’s backed up by Nobel prize winning economists.
So we wonder, why do they never learn?

Well they do learn.
But they don’t learn the same lessons as us.
They want to sell off our services whatever the cost
They want an economy built on poverty pay
They want to soften up public services for privatisation by attacking pay conditions and pensions.
They want our money in their pockets.
They want us to pay 50% more in pension contributions
Not to go into the pension fund.
But to go into the Treasury coffers to pay for the bankers’ excesses.
The ultimate Robin Hood in reverse.

In local government schemes we signed a deal in 2009.
In health the ink is not yet dry on an options choice which followed negotiations.

The situation for us is different in Scotland from England but the response is the same.
We have taken a realistic stance on pensions, we have an agreement and we expect that to be honoured.

But we are not naïve and, like you, we will defend our pensions and we will fight for them round the negotiating table – and on the streets when our time comes.

Because this is a fight for decency.
It is a fight against Tory greed.
It is a fight for respect.
It is a fight to defend all that is good in our welfare state that was fought for by working men and women over 60 years.
Our pensions are part of that fight.
They are not a perk. They are not gold-plated.
They are part of our wages
They are part of our security, and our future

And we will fight for them.

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