As teachers, civil servants and lecturers take industrial action over government attacks on their pensions, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber visits picket lines and speaks at a rally in the South West in support of striking workers.
Addressing a rally in Exeter, Brendan Barber will say: “The brutal truth is simply this. The burden of deficit reduction is being piled unfairly on to millions of low and medium-paid public sector workers who did nothing to cause the crash.
”Their pay has already been frozen for two years – even though inflation is higher than it has been for over a decade.
“Meanwhile, those who are actually guilty of causing the crash in the finance sector are busy getting back to business and bonuses as usual, escaping the scene of their crimes just as a hit-and-run driver would flee a car crash. This is a gold-standard for unfairness.”
In Exeter Brendan was due to say: “Ministers keep saying that our talks are all about the long-term future and affordability of public service pensions, but that is only a small part of the real story.
“The brutal truth is simply this. The burden of deficit reduction is being piled unfairly on to millions of low and medium-paid public sector workers who did nothing to cause the crash. Their pay has already been frozen for two years – even though inflation is higher than it has been for years. On top of this the government has decided on an arbitrary increase in pension contributions.
“Meanwhile those who are actually guilty of causing the crash in the finance sector are busy getting back to business and bonuses as usual, just as a hit-and-run driver would from a car crash. This is a gold standard for unfairness.
“It is hardly surprising that public sector workers are on strike today. They know that they are being asked to play an unfair part in deficit reduction. What adds insult to injury is that this is wrapped up in attacks on public service pensions as gold-plated, unreformed and unsustainable.
“None of these myths are true. Lord Hutton is clear that public sector pensions are not gold-plated. Most are under £5,600 a year. Only a handful even get within sight of a typical top boardroom pension.
“Nor are pensions unreformed. Negotiations with the last government guaranteed tax payers against unexpected changes in longevity though cap-and-share – and reduced the value of pensions by 10 per cent. This government’s imposition of the change to the consumer prices index (CPI) has taken another 15 per cent off their cost. Pensions reduced in value by 25 pence in every pound can hardly be said to be unchanged.
“Nor are they unsustainable. The National Audit Office (NAO), the Office for Budget Responsibility and Lord Hutton’s report are all clear that the cost of public sector pensions is due to fall as a share of the wealth the country creates. Can the government say that about any other part of the costs associated with an ageing society?
“Public sector workers have not taken the decision to strike lightly. Nobody wants to forsake a day’s pay when the cost of living is so high. Nobody wants to inconvenience the public and working families. And nobody wants to wants to see our schools and jobcentres closed.
“But the government needs to know this. Our resolve is strong, our determination is absolute, and we will see this through until we reach a just and fair settlement.”