By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser
22 Feb 2012
The fight to protect public sector pensions is far from over, despite the scandalous capitulation by leaders of the TUC, UNISON, GMB and some other unions.
Unions organising over a million workers are currently consulting and balloting members for united industrial action, including a one- day stoppage on 28 March. These include PCS (civil service), EIS, UCU and NUT (teachers), UNITE (NHS, civil service and local government) and the FBU (firefighters).
Although not the same massive force as those who massed the picket lines and streets on November 30, this constitutes a substantially bigger united strike than that of last June, which helped to drag the likes of UNISON and GMB leaders into calling united action on N30. It would pound the government on the eve of pension contribution increases that start this April, and would boost the efforts of the best activists in UNISON and GMB to salvage the situation in their own unions from the shameful surrender by the right-wing and fake-radical 'leaders' they are currently saddled with.
The government's plans still mean a three-headed monster attacking millions of workers, who will have to pay more, for far longer, to get far less on retirement. All because the Westminster Coalition wants to levy a double taxation on public sector workers, asking in billions more to fill some of the hole creat by the 2008 bankers' bailout; not one penny of the increased workers' pension contributions will go to improve or fund their pension schemes!
Unity in action is the best weapon against Cameron and Clegg's pension robbers - and against an SNP government that has merely delayed the misery of increased contributions for council workers, not even that for the rest of Scotland's 600,000 public sector workers, and which has no control over the delayed retirement age nor the 20 per cent pension cut through switching inflation indexation from RPI to CPI.
SSP members in these unions are joining with other trade unionists in vigorous efforts to win sweeping majorities in consultative ballots for united strike action on 28 March, as a way to rejuvenate this critical struggle over workers' incomes and deferred wages.
I spoke to a few of them on why they are campaigning for a huge strike that day.
"Despite everything the ConDems have said about the cuts saving the economy, the cuts in our public sector jobs and services have made things worse.
We now stand on the edge. Do we allow the government to tear down what has been built by generations of workers and face an uncertain future without these services, or do we defend our jobs, services and in fact our future?
We do not have the luxury of deciding whether or not we can take strike action. It is the only way to make a stand against the ruin the government is bringing on the people in this country."
JOHN JAMIESON, PCS NEC member
"Whilst the situation in local government remains unclear, the opportunity to resist the ongoing attack on our pensions alongside other public sector workers should be seized.
At the very least, UNISON branches can express solidarity to those on strike by sending delegations to demonstrations on 28 March."
COLIN TURBETT, chair, North Ayrshire UNISON (personal capacity)
"November 30 was the first time Scottish teachers had struck in over a quarter of a century and the strike was virtually 100 per cent solid.
This shows the iron determination to fight to defend our pensions.
Quite simply, we can't afford not to strike, for the sake of our profession and the children we teach."
LANARKSHIRE EIS rep
"Civil servants have already suffered years of pay restraint. The ConDem millionaire Coalition want to pass on another two years of pay increases limited to one per cent. They want pay cuts to be a fact of public sector life for years to come.
My members cannot afford this. When you factor in the planned increases in pension contributions, where they pay more and get less in return, it's totally unacceptable. We simply have to fight back!"
GERRY McMAHON, Glasgow PCS