Thursday, 24 November 2011

I've Made Up My Mind About The 30 November Strike

I was ambivalent about the public sector's strike organised for St Andrews Day, the 30 November, until I read Ian Dunt's article this morning.

Not only is his arrogance annoying, but underlying his words I sense his pure glee at the inconvenience which will be caused to millions.  He tells me I'll be angry and my stressful day will be 'made even more difficult by people I rely on' and he continues:

The very fact that this strike inconveniences you demonstrates the value of the public sector. These are the people who look after us; our children, our property and our streets.

He's wrong on all counts. I certainly won't be angry next Wednesday and my existence isn't completely in the hands of public service workers. My sympathies lie with young parents who use public sector childcare services because, from my own experience, that was the aspect of family life which was the vital cog in the wheel.  If my own childcare arrangements were disrupted it threw my ability to earn a living into chaos.  I've never used public service childcare services because there were none when my family were young, but I have seen the benefits it brings to a large amount of our children whose parents would be unable to afford private facilities.

But the public sector doesn't look after 'us' or our children.  We pay taxes for government to provide these services and leave it to local authorities to employ the brightest and the best to deliver it.  Schools are there to provide an education to our children.  It's the law.  One head teacher recognises her responsibility to her pupils.  Why shouldn't former Army personnel undertake such duties if they so wish?

Parents and families look after children, not public servants.  Of course at times a little help may be required in certain areas, but to generalise in such a way is hyperbole.

As for the public sector looking after 'our property' - they certainly don't look after mine.

I notice Mr Dunt mentions the pensions of Tory and Libdem politicians in his rant but fails to mention those pensions gleaned from the public purse for Labour politicians.  But then he wouldn't would he?

All my working life, both in the private and public sectors, I've supported workers standing up for themselves. For years I paid into employers private sector pension schemes and if Gordon Brown hadn't started taxing profits before I'd even set eyes on it, I would have been able to have a comfortable teacher-like pension today.  But I don't, yet no public sector worker protested for the hundreds of thousands of us who lost out.  Brown's move ensured I still have a mortgage at the age of 65 and there is no possibility the lender will see the loan until I either die or sell.

In the private sector I wasn't highly paid but I had a most enjoyable and challenging career.  Thirty years ago I didn't think further than ensuring my family were cared for to the best of my ability and thought I had adequate pension provision in place.

Where were those who will be protesting next Wednesday when 'their' then (Labour) chancellor reduced my pension pot by over a third?

Those of a left-wing political persuasion - how I hate those labels - consider many in the private sector are wealthy. They're not. They should look to the salaries provided within medium to higher local authorities.

Now, if they were to strike against the excessive salaries of their bosses I would certainly take to the streets. Closing down Scotland for a day in the middle of a working week may certainly bring their 'cause' to the public's attention, however, I doubt it they will receive much sympathy. Perhaps many parents are wishing their child's school had a headmistress like Rachel de Souza.  If my family were still of school age I certainly would.

Shouldn't we all be protesting against the huge increments the higher echelons both the private and public sector are given? That would be something worth striking for.


Joe Public said...

There will undoubtedly be some people who will be unaffected by the strike.

So to them the very fact that this strike cause no inconvenience whatsoever, demonstrates the total waste of money that is some of the public sector.

Anonymous said...

It's my birthday on St Andrews Day so as long as the pub is open and my family turn up, I won't notice the strike. But then I probably wouldn't except the bins are emptied that day.

Observer said...

It's a bit unfortunate if you have actually made up your mind on the issue of the strike based on that bloody awful article. But the writer looks as if he is about 12 which is possibly why he has written such simplistic claptrap.

I am going to be on strike on the 30th, for the simple reason being that not one penny that the Tories are going to take from me is going to my pension fund, it is going straight to the Treasury. It is a tax on people that the Tories don't like.

Unfortunately, it is not just the workers who deliver public services that the Tories don't like, it is public services themselves.

We are certainly pretty damned lucky in Scotland that we have the Scottish Parliament to protect us from the worst excesses of the Tories social policies, however that shouldn't mean that we turn a blind eye to them just because we may personally not be in as tight a spot as the English.

The point of this strike is to fire a huge salvo at the Tory government and to put pressure on the Liberal Democrats to cease supporting their more ideologically motivated insane policies.

I have spent twenty years in the field of housing, homelessness, & housing support. I don't think that has been a waste of time & I have seen much change for the better during those years. When I first started I worked in London, the London where Lady Porter was doing her thing & there were thousands of homeless people on the streets of London (many of them Scots). I will be damned if we are going to go back to those days again.

That is why I will be on strike, as much as to protect my pension.

Allan said...

I agree with Observer that it seems a shame that you have pretty much based your opinion on a poorly constructed article. The Daily Mail couldn't have done a better job of inflaming attitudes against the strike.

On a historical note, The Tories left New Labour with a hole in the public finances (this was discussed at the time, the Tories bang on about their golden legacy but don't mention this). Brown had the option to either raise Income tax (which he should have done), which would have meant that he would have broken the election promise of no rise in Income Tax, or to introduce some other measure to raise income. Brown chose the latter by taxing pension funds.

By the way, you are spot on about the excessive salaries paid to heads of service.

English Pensioner said...

I get a pension based on what was the old Civil Service Scheme. I was "hived off" into the Civil Aviation Authority and it started a contributory scheme. But, during the time I was working in the Civil Service, our pay was determined by a "Pay Review board" which compared public and private sector rates of pay and benefits. Our pay was always consistently lower than engineers doing comparable jobs in the private sector at the time, as well as being effectively a year in arrears by the time that the Board had finished its deliberations. Our pay was lower because the comparison took into account the actuarial value of our pensions, as well as the generally better terms of service, and in general most of us thought it was reasonably fair.

But now, when I look at Civil Service and Local Government rates of pay, they are most certainly not less than in the private sector and have a far better pension. So although I am drawing a government backed pension, I have little sympathy with the strikers, as with their enhanced pay, they certainly are able to afford to pay more towards their own pensions.
The "lower pay, but better pension" concept of the old Civil Service disappeared under the Blair Government, presumably under pressure from the trade Unions.

Observer said...

What would be useful in the debate over pensions & salary levels in general is if people stopped making this a private sector-v-public sector argument, & actually made it an argument about why salaries at the top of both sectors have risen so sharply when there has been no improvement in either sectors performance to justify that.

Whilst people on the middle/lower end of the scale are arguing about who is to blame for the current crisis, the people who are to blame are busy writing themselves rather large pay cheques & the only gold plated pensions wh8ch actually exist.

It's a clever trick & they seem to be getting away with it.

Woodsy42 said...

I'm afraid I made my mind up weeks ago SR. Having paid into a private scheme all my working life Brown dipped into it, the credit crunch hit it, the stock market stopped growing and annuity rates fell off a cliff. I'm lucky to get half the payout of a civil service pensioner with similar scale and working pay.
As far as I'm concerned they are a bunch of selfish spoiled kids.

subrosa said...

I know several people who work in the public sector Joe and they don't want to strike. They didn't vote for it but feel intimidated.

subrosa said...

Happy birthday in advance superioranalyst.

subrosa said...

No Observer, it's not only on that article because I have tried to inform myself as much as possible.

Of course you should strike if you wish. It's your choice and I respect that. Will the strike make any difference though?

subrosa said...

I'd rather people protested about excessive public service salaries Allan. Then they would receive my support.

subrosa said...

Indeed EP. The salary my successor receives is over twice that I received. I'm told it's due to the 'cost of living'.

subrosa said...

That would be useful Observer, yes indeed.

subrosa said...

Touche Woodsy. I too thought I was going to be worry free in my old age and of course I'm not. Will my mortgage company renew the contract when it expires in two year's time? That worries me every day.

Observer said...

I am quite worried that Jimmy Hoffa appears to be alive & well & living in Dundee. If anybody feels intimidated then they should report that to the Police as it is an offence.

Incidentally Gordon Brown taxed my pension as well, the tax hit all pension funds. So I am being doubly hit.

subrosa said...

They should indeed Observer. Can't have a person like that roaming the streets.

In some cases private pensions were hit harder Observer because funds folded and transfers cost dearly. My small public sector pension wasn't nearly so badly affected.

Woodsy42 said...

"Incidentally Gordon Brown taxed my pension as well, the tax hit all pension funds. So I am being doubly hit."

Indeed he did. To penalise some large corporations who money back from their supposedly overfunded pension funds. But when funds then all later underperformed many businesses increased prices to rebuild their funds as they had final salary schemes. Public sector people were also protected and unaffected. Those hit were people like myself with small personal schemes, equally taxed and hit by the financial situation, but with nobody to bale us out.

pa_broon74 said...

On this Strike.

I think we forget in all the hoohaa that civil & public service workers are just people too, doesn't matter that they work for the NHS or a council. They signed up to a contract and the government are now moving the goal posts.

Obviously things change but if any one thinks these changes to pensions are completely necessary then what about Trident, the two carriers being thrown together. What about Iraq or Afghanistan. What about all the money wasted in the MOD on other contracts or the money wasted by GCC... Not to mention all the money that pours out of Scotland to the South?

Those Con/Lib snakes in Westmiinster must be laughing like drains at us all berating each other for doing what we thought was best. Here we all are castigating and hurling accusations while they continue to sup and trough.

What people forget is Public services (apart from anything else) do one very important thing; they set the bar for every one else. I really don't understand this notion of society by lowest common denominator, we saw it with Uni fee's. Remember all the braying yahs from down south who said if we have to pay then so should they?

Same thing here, except jealousy and misinformed opinion get in the way. Up to a point, you choose where you work and with that choice comes ramifications. Conditions in public services are good, they are a model for which the private sector should aspire in terms of T&C's. The tories will tellyou it costs jobs but what about profits, what about responsible capitalism?

I feel if we allow public services to be dragged down to the lowest common denominator (private sector sweatshop employment) then it does the entire country a disservice.

Might be hard to grasp, but there it is. NHS Scotland adheres to all the EU stuff that private sector companies force staff to waive. I totally agree that there is a lot of loose flab in the public sector, but is dessimating jobs & pensions of the lower paid going to help? (And it will be the lower paid who get it in the neck.)

I think not.

William said...

Pa, take a bow, son.

pa_broon74 said...

I might but I've just noticed my hideous misspelling of the word decimating.

If I had any pride I'd be mortified.


subrosa said...

You do make some good points pa_broon and it's not hard for me to grasp, yet where were the public sector when they found out that private sector workers' pensions were stolen? They must have known personal pensions would come off far worse.

They've been laughing at us until 2007 when the SNP won the election. Now all they can do is parrot the same lame excuses we've heard for years but they fall on stoney ground these days.

Indeed, we should be aiming for the highest bar. Take education - the introduction of comprehensives reduced the bar to the lowest common denominator and look what's happened. Sorry I'm off topic there.

Are public sector workers paid less than the private sector? I think not.

Why do these issues always come down to the lower paid? Is that someone earning less than £13,000 pa? If so then yes, they should be protected and their colleagues defend them to the end, but from the bit of research I've done there aren't many working for that salary.

I say £13,000 because my pensions are far less than that and although I don't have a young family to care for I still have to maintain my home, keep warm and eat. If families are composed of two adults then £26,000 is possibly adequate as long as one of the parents has an idea of budgeting.

However, the article from Ian Dunt is typical of the hyperbole I've read about this strike from those who want to stir it.

subrosa said...

I am mortified pa_broon. I didn't notice it on first reading. :)

pa_broon74 said...

I must admit, when Brown did his pension two-step I wasn't really aware of this sort of thing, pensions couldn't have been further from my mind, I didn't even have one.

But I agree, if that was to happen now, not sure there would be the same furore among public sector workers.

The chat about what a low wage is is a bit of a red herring. I take the view that its less about how much you earn and more about how much stuff you absolutely have to buy costs, there in lies the travesty.

I earn just above what they say is the average wage and it's not enough, I can't buy a flat let alone a house not because I don't earn enough but because they're too expensive.

Also, this notion of what an average wage is is rubbish (they say its around £27k pa I think) That is massively skewed by the very very high earners we have in the country. There are far more people earning £13k pa than earn £130k pa.

My Dad is on a fixed income and I've noticed his funds being slowly depleted as the cost of living rises.

It's a shocking state of affairs regardless of where you get your pensions.

subrosa said...

Pa-broon, I believe in 'an honest days pay for an honest days work'. Obviously the more responsibility someone has the more they're paid. It's rather like today's continual mantra of 'children in poverty' when no child earns money. It's their carers who cause the situation.

I'd agree there are far more earning low wages these days but we've lost 30 years of skills when we lost our industries where good money could be earned.Not so long ago someone said to me nobody would want to work in a factory these days because of the conditions, but those of my generation who did miss it plus the social element involved.

The cost of living has risen and affects all of us on a fixed income. There's little we can do about it because there's no strong pensioners forum.

Hamish said...

The basic problem is that some of us are living too long, well beyond life's alotted span, which as I recollect is three score years and ten. By my arithmetic and adjusting for inflation, that's about 75.
Plus the fact that old pension schemes were based on a deluded assumption that equity investment would yield a 6% return compound over the years.
I am not regulated or certified (yet), but one thing is very obvious in these times of low interest rates. Don't have debt at high interest rates if you have any savings. Use the savings to pay down the debt.
It'll save you money.

subrosa said...

I do hope your inflation isn't weight gain Hamish. :)

On a more serious note, of course you're right. Few were expected to live more than 5 - 10 years after retirement fifty years ago.

If the strikers were protesting about the inequalities in pay between the lowest paid and middle to top management (both in councils and the NHS), then I would be more sympathetic.

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