Saturday 11 September 2010

Now they're coming for our Pensions

THIS CON-DEM GOVERNMENT has teachers’ pensions in its sights.

The press is putting out twisted statistics to argue that our pensions are ‘unaffordable.’ It’s just not true.

In the ‘good times’ (when the banks were gambling their way to crisis), the Government didn’t quibble when they took in more from our pension contributions than the scheme had to pay out. Now they are baulking at honouring the commitments that teachers have every right to expect after years of work in education.

The fact is that public sector pensions were reviewed as recently as 2005. After the threat of joint strike action forced the previous Government to negotiate, changes were agreed that protected the retirement age for existing teachers but increased our contribution rates too. No more changes should be forced on us now.

But the Government want an excuse to find even more cuts. They have already announced that pensions will be linked to the lower-rate Consumer Price Index instead of the Retail Price Index. That underhand change alone could cost teachers tens of thousands of pounds over their retirement.

Worse is to come soon. They have put ex-Labour Minister John Hutton in charge of a Commission that is due to publish its first report in October. Reports suggest it may recommend:
• Raising the retirement age to 65 for ALL teachers - or even higher?
• Taking higher contributions from our salary - i.e. cutting our pay ?
• Changing the scheme so we get less pension when we retire?

We have to get ready immediately to respond to this attack. Why should we suffer poverty in our old age - or share the misery of private sector workers who have had their pensions slashed? Together, we have to fight.

The last Government had to retreat when public sector unions prepared joint action. In France, millions have been on strike to defend pensions this month. We have to build that level of action too. Why not start with a national demonstration this term?

Martin Powell-Davies

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