Striking out

Unfair and unaffordable

I don’t know about you but I haven’t noticed any signs of the country coming to a shuddering halt yet. 750,000 public sector workers (though none from my office) have gone on strike and the nation has kept ticking along.

The false argument about public sector pensions is put rather well by this which is going round on Facebook…

“Remember when teachers, nurses, doctors, lollipop ladies and disabled people crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No, me neither. Please copy and paste to your status for 24 hours to show your support for the strikes against the government pensions”

It is very dishonest to try and make out that these reforms to public sector pensions are simply a result of the financial crisis. They aren’t. There were rumblings of strikes in 2004, 2005 and an actual strike in 2006. Yes, the dire state of the national finances probably has made dealing with public sector pensions more pressing, but the simple fact is that the current arrangements which aren’t affordable after the credit crunch weren’t affordable before it.

The issue of pensions is about the worst one public sector workers could choose to strike on. According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, reported in the Telegraph

“The calculations show that a mid-ranking teacher on £32,000 a year will receive a final salary pension that is the equivalent of having built up a £500,000 pension pot.

This is 20 times higher than the average private sector scheme, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Private sector workers would have to save more than 20 per cent of their salaries for 40 years – more than £500 a month for a similarly paid person — to amass the same amount in a defined contribution pension”

Such a state of affairs was, just about, sustainable when it could be passed off as the reward for lower wages in the public sector. But the last Labour government richly rewarded its loyal clients in the public sector and, as a comprehensive report by Policy Exchange found

“On an hourly basis, the typical public sector worker is now 30% better paid than the typical worker in the private sector. On top of this, public sector employees have better pensions. The difference is worth an extra 15% of their salary. Over their lifetimes, people in the private sector work 23% more hours (equivalent to 9.2 years of a public sector employee’s working life) – where their public sector counterpart will either be on sick leave, holiday, strike or in retirement”

Union leaders, such Mark Serwotka, have been deriding George Osborne’s claim that “we’re all in this together”. As well they might, another Policy Exchange report found that

“Since the start of the recession, the hourly pay premium for the typical public sector worker has increased. After taking into account differences like age, experience and qualifications, the hourly pay premium for a public sector worker was 8.8% as of December 2010. This almost doubled from 4.3% two years earlier”

The public sector hasn’t been in anything at all yet it still expects the recession ravaged private sector to continue paying the same amount to it as before. The trade unions, who at least used to make a good show of supporting things like ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’ are now, quite brazenly, simply trying to protect their privileged status as a labour aristocracy kept going by the galley slaves in the private sector who are worked until they drop to pay for these generous pensions and then thrown overboard.

This is not only unaffordable, it is unfair. That is what today’s strike is about.

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