November the 30th. St Andrews Day. On this day we shall be mainly protesting and going on strike. Oh dear a day of discontent. The Conservatives have launched a number of pre-emptive strikes (oops that’ll be a pun then) suggesting various groups within the protestors are treating their fellow humans with contempt.
For example peoples operations will be cancelled because there won’t be enough staff in the NHS to carry them out. Is that an unusual event? Teachers will not be in their classrooms teaching the bairns. This means that people will have to take time of work to look after their own children. They’ll have to use their own holidays. Their employers aren’t going to foot the bill. My memory suggests that teachers go to school to teach, they do not provide a childcare service.
Of course we have recently had another day off from work but that involved a much larger number of people. The Royal Wedding. The cost was higher. Same set of issues for the economy. I can’t remember Call me Dave and George Osborne whining about people not going to work etc. that day.
The current dispute centres on pensions, wage freezes and cuts in services. The pensions part is really due to a contractual dispute, which has been caused by the Government deciding that the pension bill in the future is going to be too large. Disgracefully, people are living longer and need more pension money. A guy from a private pension company was on the BBC news the other night pointing this out and suggesting that we should all work longer to compensate. It’s a challenge for the pension industry. Excellent. A challenge is a good thing. It should make them better at what they do.
However, the government’s response is slightly different. They have decided to have people work longer which means they will contribute more and then when they do get their pension they will get less than was originally agreed. A triple whammy, impressive! How courageous. With sharp minds like these on the case we’ll be a third world country quicker then the Greens can say CO2.
If you are one of those who are having to face up to this you’re likely to be ticked off to say the least. You are ticked off because for some time now you have been working towards your retirement safe in knowledge that your future is secure. You contracted with your employer who contracted with you. You had a contract bidding for both parties.
Now along come Call me Dave and George Osborne who really don’t need to work at all and certainly will be extremely secure in their old age. They come up with a wizard wheeze, which is suggesting that people in the private sector don’t have as good private pension provision as the public sector. This is true in part but not in total. Regardless of the detail, the people in the private sector signed a contract of employment and accepted the terms and conditions which included salary and pension details. If they are not as good as the public sector they could always move to the public sector for employment. A bit harsh? We do what we need to do. We are responsible for our own lives.
The contracts for the public sector workers are being set aside because it suits the government. Shame on the government. The moral approach would be to apply the changes from an agreed date for new employees. They could also promote and provide early retirement for staff who feel they have done their bit. This would mean that a lot of the more experienced teachers who are on higher salaries would leave and jobs could go to younger, newly qualified teachers who would be on lower salaries. Skill drain? Only if the employers managed it badly.
Of course there is no moral position the Government can possibly take. They take money from everyone, which is for building up a pension for retirement. They then spend the money on whatever they fancy. Instead of investing the money and building up a significant pension pot for the country they spend it. They do the same with road tax. The roads are pot holed and new roads aren’t being built. There’s no money. No, there is loads of money it just they spend on other stuff.
The government has broken the contract with its work force. If this was a normal contract the injured party could sue for breach of contract and be entitled to recompense. Let’s not dress up spending cuts as some sort of “making a fairer society” type of approach. These are simple budget cuts. Budget cuts thought out with little imagination, innovation and care.
How many actual council staff have been made redundant? Have the cuts actually been aimed at all those small charities and support organisations? How many small organisations have had their grants stopped or reduced to a level which renders them unable to function?
How much of the vast reserves the councils have accumulated have been used to reduce the impact of the budget cuts from central government?
Who knows what effect the strikes will have. People work hard on the basis that at some point in the future they will retire and enjoy a reasonable pension, which will provide a comfortable lifestyle. That seems pretty fair.
The government should get its act together to ensure that it happens or get out of the pension provision game and hand over pension contributions they collect presently to a pensions company, for all our sakes.