Labour Pushes For Pensions War

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MORE than half a million civil servants are to be told that they will have to pay a lot more towards their pensions.

This is the message that the trade union leaders are to be given next Tuesday when they meet with the Cabinet Office Minister, Hillary Armstrong.

This new government diktat to the union leaders is the pay-off for their betrayal of the defence of their members’ final salary pensions and their retirement at age 60.

The leaders of the civil service, NHS and teaching trade unions abandoned this struggle just before the May 2005 general election, after appeals to them by Blair and Prescott that a huge pensions strike just before the election would not help New Labour.

Instead, they agreed to a scandalous two-tier system where they sold off the future of their union and its members by agreeing that there would be no final salary pensions and no retirement at 60 for new starters.

This sell-out not only split the membership of the unions involved, it split the public sector trade unions, leaving the local government workers to take up the fight on their own.

The local government workers responded to this situation with great courage and determination, organising a 1.5 million strong strike action on March 28 which shook the government rigid.

It also shook the trade union leaders. With further strike actions planned for the next week they rushed to capitulate.

They rapidly settled with the government for an even more disgraceful deal.

In a joint statement with the employers, the union leaders acknowledged that the Rule of 85, that is retirement at 60, was past history as far as all their members were concerned, both present and future.

The joint statement said: ‘The statement by the Minister for Local Government on 30th March laying Parliamentary Orders, including the Order to abolish the Rule of 85 from October 2006, provides a framework for developing a new-look scheme.’

It added that talks have already started on ‘a nothing ruled in nothing ruled out basis’, in which ‘All participants are firmly committed to change in pension provision, now and in the future, being made by agreement as far as possible, respecting the role of the DPM as regulator.’

They agreed that for local government workers the rule of 85 was terminated, and that the Deputy Prime Minister, as regulator, should have the final say on pension provision after discussion on a ‘nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out basis’.

Strengthened by this display of political cowardice by the reformist trade union leaders, and with the economic crisis worsening, Labour is now proceeding to rip up what has already been agreed, as far as civil servants are concerned, no doubt before moving on to much worsen the rest of the agreements that were made with the public sector.

Hillary Armstrong the Cabinet Office Minister, in a letter to John Prescott with a copy to Blair and the cabinet, has warned them that she is declaring war on the civil servants.

She wrote: ‘I am recommending that we seek agreement with the civil service trade unions to move to arrangements where we share between employer and employees the effect of the future cost increases and also cap the cost to the employers at a maximum of 20 per cent of pensionable pay.

‘I have no doubt that this measure will be deeply unpopular. . . and I seek confirmation that we will all be prepared, if necessary to stand firm on the need for such an agreement even though there is a risk of industrial action.’

Armstrong has no fear of the union leaders, she is however afraid of the anger of the union membership.

The civil service leaders must be made to reject this massive attack on their members. They must call strike action and must demand that that the whole of the public sector take action with them, on the basis that an injury to one will very quickly become an injury to all. In fact, pensions are a dynamite issue for the whole of the working class. The Civil Service unions must put a resolution in front of the TUC that Labour must withdraw its proposals or face a general strike.