Party Point – June 2011

John Clark writes…

First published: June 2011 – Gazette & Herald

In an economy there are two driving forces – money and work. They provide between them our possessions. Without work we would have very little, including services. Imagine building a school, let alone the Olympic Stadium using only barter.

The two resources are treated completely differently. When the money moguls get it wrong we all pay out. Public services are cut in hospitals, the police, schools, road repairs and social services. Meanwhile the bankers’ bonuses, large salaries and massive pensions all continue. There is very little transparency. No-one knows which banks or hedge funds were dependent on which loans or mortgages. There is even less democracy.

On the work side the present ‘crisis’ is with pensions. In the private sector during the 80’s and 90’s pension funds were doing so well that the companies took a ‘pension holiday’. Companies were bought and sold so as to strip out the pension surplus. Money was made at the expense of the workers. There was very little hue and cry. Twenty years later when the pension funds had not grown fast enough companies said they couldn’t afford to continue their scheme. Again the workers lost out.

Historically, public sector pensions were high to compensate for lower wages. It is now alleged that as public sector wages have increased and private sector pensions are reduced there is no need for higher pensions in the public sector. There is a case for:

  • Limiting the top earners pensions
  • Linking pensions to career average earnings.

There is no case for:

  • Giving people a 3% cut in wages at a time when they have their salaries frozen.
  • This money not going into a pension fund. It goes into the government coffers. The long term financial problem is not reduced.
  • Describing an average pension of £4,000 as ‘gold plated’.

Another ‘red’ herring used against the Trade Unions is the low turnout in their strike ballots. Most local councillors would not be elected if there had to be a 50% turnout. Even in Ryedale with a high voting pattern, less than a third of Ryedale District Councillors are elected on a 50% turnout.

When the Trade Unions democratically vote to take strike action they are threatened by Vince Cable with tighter laws. Hotly followed by Danny Alexander (yet another LibDem) unilaterally announcing an increase of the pension age to 66. Running alongside this is the ‘fair deal’ where the public sector outsources services to the private sector. The private company will no longer have to provide an equivalent pension to the public sector. Money and profit wins out again over workers. No wonder there is outrage.

On the money side the present ‘crisis’ is Greece. Who will carry the can for the mess? If the previous banking ‘crisis’ is a guide it will be the vulnerable not the well off.

This attack on workers is led by the Tories, supported by the LibDems and ignored by Labour MP’s. This is likely to be only the beginning of the unrest.

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