Wednesday 30 March 2011

Camden and Tower Hamlets Strike Against Cuts

NUT members in Camden and Tower Hamlets took borough-wide strike action today to oppose education cuts.  Congratulations to everyone who organised and took part in this solid action.

Alongside national action on pensions, these borough-wide strikes have to be built on and developed across the country. Instead of leaving schools and central services to fight cuts and attacks in isolation, today's actions show that we can take united action across Local Authorities.

Schools were closed across the two boroughs and students and parents came out to join teachers and support staff on the two local demonstrations.

Alex Kenny speaks to strikers gathering to start the Tower Hamlets march
In Tower Hamlets, where UNISON members also took strike action, over 1500 members marched through the borough to a rally addressed by Mark Serwotka of the PCS.

In Camden, a demonstration of over 500 marched to Hamilton House, the NUT's National Headquarters.

The march finished with a rally including speeches from two General Secretaries: Christine Blower of the  NUT and Sally Hunt of the UCU.

Christine Blower welcomes the Camden marchers
The Camden Rally fills the Mander Hall at Hamilton House
I had the opportunity to speak to both marchers on behalf of the National Executive. I asked members at the Mander Hall rally to look around them and feel their strength, and to remember that inspiring feeling of power from the mass march on Saturday as well. As the cheers rang out and flags waved at the end of the rally, the growing confidence and enthusiasm to stand up to the Con-Dem cuts was there for everyone to see.

It's clear that, when a lead is given, trade union members are ready to respond. Both Camden and Tower Hamlets achieved 85% YES votes for action - Lewisham NUT has just achieved an even larger majority in a similar indicative ballot.

This Government may have thought that they were going to get away with their attacks, but now the unions are on the move. We have to use our strength to build united action - and press on until these cuts are defeated.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Half a million - and more - march against the cuts

What a demonstration! The hundreds of thousands of protesters that flooded onto the Embankment came from right across Britain to show their anger against the cuts.

The demonstration was massive - estimates are of between half and three-quarters of a million. It certainly took Lewisham NUT five and a half hours to finally reach Hyde Park. We saw Birmingham NUT finally make it at 5pm - six hours after the start.

Up to 200 Lewisham NUT members followed the banner as we started out from the South Bank to cross Blackfriars Bridge and join the back of the demonstration. By 2pm we weren't much further than Embankment tube station - where the march had set out three hours earlier - and there were still many, many more marchers waiting behind us!

Text messages and calls from teachers who hadn't made it to the South Bank and chance meetings along the route shows that we may well have had as many as 300 Lewisham NUT members on the march altogether.

 The last march of this size was the mass demonstration against the Iraq war - but this demo was different. It was a trade-union called event packed with thousands of trade union banners and flags.

 Now the urgent task is to harness the power of the movement - into co-ordinated strike action against the cuts to pensions, jobs and services!

Mark Serwotka at the Hyde Park Rally - "Imagine what it would be like if we didn't only march together, we took strike action together"
Christine Blower at Hyde Park: "We're going to stand together, march together - and, if necessary, strike together until we turn round these cuts" 
Socialist Party - fantastic pictures showing the size of the demo - and a call for a public sector general strike to follow March 26
There's even me being interviewed by Flemish TV about how a 'decent middle-class family' is being hit by the cuts!! Thanks to the local mums who backed me up on fighting library closures!

Friday 25 March 2011

A Socialist challenge to our Labour Council to fight the cuts

The 12% vote for Ian Page in the Bellingham council by-election is a warning to Labour Councils making cuts that working people are growing tired of their excuses.

Labour 1100 51%
Tory  340 16%
Lib Dem 334 16%
Ian Page SP/LPBP 264 12%
Greens 100 5%
Turnout 22%

Lewisham Council is making £88 million of cuts over the next four years, slashing jobs and services. Labour councillors want to put all the blame on the Con-Dems. For now at least, that anger against this government of millionaires still guarantees a Labour victory – but for how much longer?

Lewisham Socialist Party – standing on a joint ticket with Lewisham People Before Profit – understood that most voters would want to punish the Tories and Lib Dems. But our message was clear – that you couldn’t trust Labour to resist their attacks. Voting for Ian Page, our anti-cuts candidate, was the best way to send a message to all the parties that a working-class area like Bellingham needed councillors who would fight for their community and against all cuts.

In a few weeks, our campaign secured a real base of support in a ward where we had never done any previous campaigning. We could point to Ian’s campaigning record as a socialist councillor in Telegraph Hill but Bellingham is at the other end of the borough. After this result, the other parties will have to recognise that we are force to be reckoned with right across Lewisham.

On the doors and the street stalls, there was growing support from local people to our anti-cuts message. Hatred for the Government was also mixed with anger for Labour councillors who were carrying out the Tories’ dirty work – slashing jobs, closing libraries and privatising children’s centres. The low turnout reflected a mood amongst many that they couldn’t trust anyone to defend them. But our 12% vote – close behind both Tories and LibDems - shows that we persuaded many others not to stay angrily indoors on election day but to vote for a real alternative.

While both the LibDems and Labour tried to present Ian as an ‘outsider’, it was the Labour canvassers in suits that looked most out of place in Bellingham. One Labour councillor was so lost that she had to come up to our stall for directions. ‘I’m meant to be meeting the Labour team outside the Housing Office’ she explained. ‘Yes, but you closed it’, came our reply – pointing to the boarded up office behind us!

When Ian finally finished on the doors, he realised he’d dropped the keys to his scooter. A group of lads came out of one of the houses to say they’d found them and taken them safely indoors. When they realised it was Ian, they explained their family had voted for him too! That’s working-class solidarity!

At the Town hall election count, Labour looked relieved but we were smiling. Lewisham’s Labour councillors know that trade unions and the community are already organising against their cuts. Now they will have to start looking over their left shoulders for a socialist challenge at the ballot box as well.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Join the March 26 demonstration! - A Report from the NUT National Executive

The NUT National Executive met a day after the Budget – but two days before it will be answered by a massive demonstration on Saturday. Executive members reported that coaches and trains were fully booked from all parts of the country – with trade unions having to turn people away because there is no more transport available! It will be a tremendous show of opposition to cuts – and boost confidence for the battles to come over pensions, jobs and public services. London teachers need to be there in their thousands!

A Budget for the wealthy – at our expense

Osborne is claiming that he presented a ‘budget for ‘growth’ – but the only ‘growth’ will be in the size of private sector bank accounts as the Government helps their friends by cutting corporation tax.

Teachers will see their income squeezed – with inflation rising, national insurance increasing, a two-year pay freeze, cuts to child tax credits and the higher rate tax threshold kicking in at a level that will hit many London teachers. That’s before they try to steal another £100 a month or so for increased pension contributions (the pensions loss calculator on the national NUT website will give you a personalised figure for this pensions robbery).

With less money in people’s pockets, fewer in work, less tax income and less being spent on public services, the Government’s policies will CUT growth, not promote it. Small wonder that, behind the rhetoric, the Treasury had to reduce their growth forecast for the British economy.

Work until you’re 70?!

The Budget also confirmed that the Government were accepting Hutton’s recommendations to make us pay more to retire older for less pension. In fact, they’ve gone further. They propose that retirement ages might be increased even quicker and higher than Hutton suggested – do they expect us still to be working at 70?!

Knowing that their proposals have no financial justification, they are also planning to fiddle the figures by altering the ‘discount rate’ used to work out the costs of the pension scheme. That could mean even more pension contribution increases – unless we defeat these attacks through united action.

UCU lecturers took strike action in defence of pensions this week. If – as I am sure it will – NUT Conference gives the go-ahead for our own national ballot after Easter, then we can join with them – and other unions – in united action to oppose Hutton’s attacks in June. Let’s get a huge majority in that ballot and follow the massive demonstration on March 26 with a massive show of strength in June.

Teachers who want to join the NUT to make sure they are included in the pensions ballot can join for no charge from April 2011 as long as they make a commitment to pay the 2012 subscription.

Support Tower Hamlets and Camden NUT Action

NUT members in Tower Hamlets and Camden will be making their response before Easter – with one-day strike action against cuts to education services in their boroughs on Wednesday March 30.  Both Associations won good majorities in favour of strike action. After all, ‘Unity is Strength’. Instead of leaving colleagues to fight cuts and job losses alone, Authority-wide action like this means we can stand together to oppose the damage these cuts will inflict on schools, teachers and our students. In Tower Hamlets, UNISON will also be taking action alongside the NUT. Do send in messages of support to Camden NUT: and Tower Hamlets NUT:

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Teachers strike over workload and bullying

NUT members at Whitmore School in Hackney started a two-day strike today to oppose unacceptable workload.

Their stand against an aggressive management that seems to expect teachers to work themselves into the ground to keep up with their demands deserves the support of every teacher.

Whitmore's story is just one example of the pressures facing teachers and school across the country. Targeted by Hackney's Learning Trust for making insufficient 'progress', the acting Head has left and a new Executive Headteacher put in charge, extending his federation.

Instead of working together as a respected team, teachers are being weighed down by excessive marking demands, observations and meetings - without any clear limits.

Negotiations to try and resolve the dispute stalled with the management effectively suggesting that a 'reasonable work-life balance' was out of the question in a school like Whitmore. Yet this is a right for teachers, as is the directed hours breakdown and observation protocols that we are seeking.

I fear that management don't want to agree clear policies that limit the demands on teachers. Do they hope that overworked teachers will simply leave to be replaced by young staff that will be burnt out and replaced in turn in a year or so? That's a recipe for constant turnover and low morale, not for good education.

Parents speaking to staff on the picket line understood our concerns. One was appalled by the aggressive attitude of one of the senior managers stood behind the gates who told me that these were staff that would be struck off by the GTC for not doing their job! As one teacher explained - they just want 'more for less' - or another parent responded astutely ' it sounds like what happens under privatisation'.

Yes, like today's UCU strike against pensions (see Goldsmiths lunchtime rally below), these battles to defend our working conditions are also about defending public services against the managerial outlook of the private sector - and the actual privatisation of the public services as companies look to run services at the cheapest cost to themselves.

Many staff face similar problems as at Whitmore. It is to their immense credit that the NUT members there have not just walked away but stood up for themselves and taken strike action. They need to know that teachers admire their determination and courage.

Please send messages of support to

There were also UCU picket lines at many colleges today - including at Goldsmiths University in New Cross. A lunchtime rally got good support from students and lecturers:

Tuesday 15 March 2011

This is a nuclear disaster

UPDATE 16/3 22:30:  The chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned this afternoon that all of the water is gone from the spent fuel pool at reactor four of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing “extremely high” radiation levels.

There have also been the first reports of radioactive iodine and caesium traces in drinking water supplies in Fukushima.

LATEST 16/3 15:30: The EU's energy chief Guenther Oettinger has said that in the coming hours "there could be further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island". He told the European Parliament the Fukushima nuclear site was "effectively out of control". "The cooling systems did not work, and as a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster." The French Government was one of several to advise their citizens to leave Tokyo as soon as possible.

Oettinger's office later isued a 'clarification' saying that 'he just wanted to share his concern' because his comments caused panic in the financial markets. 

Profits before safety once again.


News overnight from Japan must surely now shake even the firmest 'accident-deniers' from the nuclear industry into recognising that Fukushima is now the world's second worst nuclear disaster - with long-term consequences.

It seems that last night's blast at reactor no.2 was NOT another hydrogen explosion but a possible breach of the suppression chamber wall INSIDE the containment vessel. This is potentially a far more serious situation. Pressure has reportedly dropped in the suppression chamber - suggesting a crack in the containment vessel. If so, highly radioactive materials (in air or possibly in liquid) will be able to leak out.

Radioactivity levels have now risen significantly - numbers are no longer in MICROsieverts but in MILLIsieverts - a thousand times greater. Recommended maximum annual doses are around 10mSv a year - measurements of 400mSv per hour have been reported near the reactors.

Some operators have been evacuated, others are bravely staying on site to try and maintain water injection. However, there are too many different emergencies for the staff to deal with at once with the limited resources that they have at their disposal.

As a consequence, temperatures in the spent fuel pools have also risen as cooling has not been in place. A further hydrogen-ignited fire therefore broke out in the pool belonging to Reactor 4. Although this reactor is shutdown, the used rods can still generate sufficient heat to cause such an incident if cooling is ceased. These pools are outside the core containment and so radioactive material released by the fire will have risen into the atmosphere.

The previous hydrogen blast at Reactor 3 has left its spent pool uncovered. A fire here could release toxic plutonium into the environment if MOX fuel rods are involved.

So much for a localised 'Level 4' incident. The situation is dire.

For a socialist perspective from the region, read 'Earthquake could leave “tens of thousands” dead and nuclear threat'
and 'Disaster hits workers hardest' 

UPDATE: While news reports state that 'radiation levels are falling', the readings are still in millisieverts rather than at the lower microsievert levels previously being recorded. Kyodo News reports the following grim overview:
-- Reactor No. 1 - Cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, hydrogen explosion, seawater pumped in.
-- Reactor No. 2 - Cooling failure, seawater pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, vapor vented, damage to containment system, potential meltdown feared.
-- Reactor No. 3 - Cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater pumped in, hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby.
-- Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, fire caused possibly by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, pool water level feared receding.

FURTHER UPDATE 22.45: A second (or continuing?) fire broke out at reactor No.4 - presumably again from the spent fuel pool. Unlike reactors 5 and 6, where some rods are still stored more safely in the reactor vessel, reports say that ALL of the rods from reactor 4 had been placed in the spent fuel pool - this unfortunately increases the amount of radioactive material that could be released as a result of the fire.

Chernobyl veteran Iouli Andreev has suggested that the storage of so many rods so close to the reactor pointed to the Japanese nuclear industry putting profits before saefty. He also accused the IAEA's emergency team as being "a fake organisation because every organisation which depends on the nuclear industry - and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry - cannot perform properly. It always will try to hide the reality".

UPDATE: 16/3 07:00: After latest fire, radiation levels spiked above 1,000 millisieverts - i.e not micro Sv or milli Sv but 1 Sv. Workers (now facing very serious health risks) also investigating cause of smoke seen above Reactor No.3.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Pensions - we can defeat this Con-Dem robbery

The second Hutton Pensions Commission report has confirmed plans to make public sector workers PAY MORE to RETIRE OLDER and to GET LESS PENSION when they do.

Ex-Labour Minister John Hutton, now advising the Con-Dem Government, had already recommended a massive hike in pension contributions. This is on top of the Government’s decision to rip off millions of workers and pensioners by switching from RPI to the lower CPI indexation for pensions and benefits from April.

For example, they want teachers’ monthly payments to go up by 50% - that’s around a £100 per month pay cut. With a public sector pay freeze and rising inflation , this would be another huge squeeze on incomes.

Hutton claims that the increases are inevitable to account for rising life expectancy. It’s not true. No actuarial analysis has been provided to justify them. In fact Hutton’s own figures show that public sector pension scheme costs are already set to fall. So this extra money isn’t to help pay for retiring colleagues. No, the Government just wants to impose an extra tax on public sector workers to plug the hole in their finances. But why should we foot the bill for the bankers’ gambling debts?

These attacks are part and parcel of the Government’s privatisation agenda. In order to privatise schools and other public services, businesses don’t want to have to pay the costs of decent pensions. Reports suggest states that a public sector pension of £20,000 might be cut to just £6,000 in a private scheme.

Hutton’s new proposal is that the ‘normal pension age’ would rise first to 65 for all but then increase further to 68 to track the rising state pension age. Do they seriously expect a 68 year-old to have to struggle around a classroom? Or for older workers to be forced to work on while the younger generation is unable to find employment?

He has also proposed that existing ‘final-salary’ schemes should be replaced by ‘career-average’ pensions. Hutton wants to divide opposition by claiming that this would be ‘fairer’ to those lower down the pay-scale. But what Hutton intends will be unfair to all of us.

In principle, a career-average scheme can be constructed in a way that maintains pension levels – but their intention is to cut pension costs. These schemes will be calculated to give us LESS pension even though we'll be paying in MORE.

Hutton also wants to divide the public sector from private sector colleagues by saying that we can’t expect to carry on with final salary pensions when most private-sector workers aren’t getting them. But why should we allow ourselves to be ripped-off in the same way as private companies have ripped-off their employees? The best way to defend all workers is for someone to put up a fight – and we are going to!

Hutton’s report must be met with a quick response – a co-ordinated ballot across the public sector for united strike action to defeat the pensions robbery. It’s also yet another reason to be out on the streets of London on 26 March!

The UCU have already balloted lecturers for action over pensions (and secured a 72% majority for strike action from those in the Teachers Pension Scheme). The PCS, NUT and other teaching unions are discussing balloting for co-ordinated action starting in June. But this mustn’t just be a token protest; it must be the start of an escalating program of strike action to defeat these attacks. A famous victory over pensions would then raise workers’ confidence to fight all of the Con-Dem’s cuts.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Media 'experts' hide the truth - in Fukushima

UPDATED 15.3.11 07.00

LATEST: NHK Press Conference suggests latest blast at reactor no.2 was NOT another hydrogen explosion but a possible breach of the suppression chamber wall INSIDE the containment vessel. This is potentially a far more serious situation. Some operators have been evacuated, others are staying on site to try and maintain water injection.

Pressure has reportedly dropped in the suppression chamber - suggesting a crack in the containment vessel. If so, radioactive materials (in air or possibly in liquid) can leak out.

Radioactivity levels have now risen significantly - numbers are no longer in MICROsieverts but in MILLIsieverts - a thousand times greater. Recommended annual doses are around 10mSv a year - measurements of 400mSv an hour have been reported.

Temperatures in the spent fuel pools have also risen as cooling is not in place (as warned of below). A further (hydrogen-ignited?) fire broke out in the pool in Reactor 4. Although this reactor is shutdown, the used rods can still generate sufficient heat to cause such an incident if cooling is ceased. down, These pools are outside the core containment and so radioactive material released by the fire will have risen into the atmosphere. The previous hydrogen blast at Reactor 3 has left its spent pool uncovered. A fire here could release toxic plutonium into the environment if MOX fuel rods are involved.

So much for a localised 'Level 4' incident. What a mess.


I was angry enough at the lies and distortions that have hit our news screens since Hutton reported on pensions - but the overnight media 'experts' on nuclear safety have driven this physics teacher to further levels of annoyance!

First we were told that there are always 'back-ups to the back-ups' in the nuclear industry - it seems not sufficiently at Fukushima - despite the obvious threat of major tsunamis in the region.

Now they have spent hours wondering whether or not there has been a meltdown when there have been clear reports of caesium being detected outside the reactor. Caesium is a fission product from uranium - there is only one place that it can come from - the reactor core. There has certainly been some kind of leak or meltdown - and the situation could well be getting worse.

There are now also pictures of an explosion at the plant which appeared to have blown off some of the containment structures - potentially allowing radioactive materials to escape into the environment (but see below). There will be brave workers valiantly trying to resolve the situation, but it is unclear how much they are able to do.

UPDATE: One worker at least has died. Sea water and neutron-absorbing boric acid/sodium polyborate (is this Clinton's mystery 'coolant' from the USA?) is apparently now being injected to try and cool the core (apparently an untested method being resorted to because of the failure of the plant's coolant systems- let's hope it works...). Seawater may also be needed to ensure that the 'used' rods in the spent fuel pools are also sufficiently cooled.

UPDATE: The explosion seems to have been a hydrogen explosion - probably caused by steam reacting with hot zirconium in the fuel rods. That alone confirms that there has been some kind of a problem inside the core. While many news outlets are keen to correctly say that this was not a "nuclear explosion" few seem to recognise that the presence of hydrogen in itself suggests that the core has been at worryingly high temperatures.
UPDATE: There is a further reason to worry as we wait to see the extent of core melting: The LA Times reports that the Fukushima No.1 Facility's General Electric Mark One boiling water reactor is one of the oldest designs used commercially and one of its biggest liabilities, experts say, is a weakness in the floor of the containment vessel.,0,2957196.story Warnings about the design go back as far as 1972:
This is already (IMO!) a worse situation than Three Mile Island in 1979. (14.3 - the French Nuclear Agency ASN are now publicly questioning the 'level 4' classification given to the events and suggesting it is a more serious 5 or 6 incident) The nuclear industry has always claimed that the effects of that accident were exaggerated and that there were few long-term health risks. However, at TMI the containment held firm. It was also a new reactor where there had not been time for the Caesium-137 levels to build up within the core. The Fukushima reactors are reportedly 40 years old.

UPDATE: TEPCO are saying that the containment structures remain intact but it is still seems uncertain whether the core has sustained any damage. Nearby residents have tested positive for radiation exposure.

Cs-137 is not only highly radioactive, it is also taken up into the body as if it were potassium, absorbed into muscles and other vital tissues.

Earthquakes are a natural disaster but Japan's choice to rely heavily on nuclear power was a political one. I believe that the risks of nuclear fission and the unresolved problems of waste storage have always meant this was the wrong choice. This disaster will add to the arguments against nuclear power as a solution to dwindling fossil fuels.

UPDATE: It appears that TEPCO have previously been found guilty of falsifying data over coolant temperatures and repair records at Fukushima Daiichi -  can we ever trust big business with public safety?

LATER UPDATE 13.3.11:  Belatedly, the media are catching up with the severity of events at Daiichi. Concerns are also being raised about the nearby Fukushima Daini plant. Reports state that the emergency cooling system is also no longer functioning at the Fukushima Daiichi No.3 reactor. Officials are now admitting that they are working on the assumption of a partial meltdown in both reactors 1 and 3 and warning of the possibility of a further hydrogen explosion at No.3 (suggesting that the fuel rods must have been at dangerously high temperatures there too) . The seawater injection is apparently ongoing - permanently disabling the reactors which will never be usable again. However, the risk of further serious release of radioactive material is certainly still possible.
A real concern is that Reactor 3 started using MOX (mixed oxide) fuels last Autumn. Its core therefore includes plutonium as well as uranium. 

MARCH 14 UPDATE: Radiation measurements are rising at reactor 1, water levels are falling in reactor 2 exposing the fuel rods, and the inevitable hydrogen explosion has occurred at reactor 3 (containing the MOX fuel). Japan's NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) latest press release contains the detail that for two hours overnight sea water injection had to be stopped 'because of the lack of seawater in the pit".

While seawater injection is still required at reactors 1 and 3, Kyodo News reports that the number-two reactor has now become the priority. This is because four of the the pumps to that reactor were put out of operation - perhaps by the earlier explosion in reactor three (which injured eleven). At one stage, the rods were totally uncovered, inevitably leading to at least some melting of the core materials.

The chances of a more serious meltdown allowing materials to break through the floor of the containment vessel in one of these reactors must be increasing.

The media 'experts' continue brazenly on. A BBC news item this morning tried to claim that residents will be protected by the high levels of iodine in the Japanese diet!!

This evening, TEPCO's reports confirm that the 'fuel integrity' is 'damaged' in reactors 1 and 3 and 'unknown' in reactor 2.  While the containment integrity in the reactors is thankfully listed as 'not damaged', water levels in 1 and 3 are 'unknown' and pressures are increasing in reactor 2. See:

This has now been followed by reports of an explosion being heard from Reactor No.2 

Whatever the outcome, surely this incident illustrates that a global energy plan should not rely on nuclear power - and certainly not earthquake-vulnerable Japan.

For a socialist view from China Worker, read:

There's a useful scientific explanation of events on

Thursday 10 March 2011

Don’t be fooled by Hutton – fight to defend your pension!

Lord Hutton’s second report into public sector pensions has confirmed the attacks that we have been expecting. He has recommended:
a) AN END TO FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEMES – to be replaced by ‘career average’ schemes in order to cut the value of your pension.
b) RETIRING OLDER – the ‘normal pension age’ would rise first to 65 for all but increase further to 68 in future to track the rising state pension age.
This comes on top of the attacks we already know about, particularly:
c) PAYING MORE – with the Government wanting to increase pension contributions by 50% - robbing £100 a month or so from teachers just as we are about to be clobbered by a pay freeze and rising inflation.

Lord Hutton’s interview on Radio 4 this morning contained a series of distortions designed to confuse and divide opposition – we must not be fooled.

First, he claims that ‘there is no alternative’, that we’re all living longer and so we have to work longer to pay for it. Don’t be fooled. The financial statistics don’t back up their claims. As the NUT press release has stated: “The National Audit Office has confirmed that public sector pension costs are falling as expected due to the reforms already in place. Teachers are already paying more, the normal pension age has been raised to 65 for new entrants and employer contributions have been capped … Their plans are based on politics, not economics. Pensions have already been cut by changing their link from RPI to CPI inflation. As a result of this, next month’s pension increase will be 1.5% less than it should have been”

"Interesting tweet from Faisal Islam, Channel 4's economics editor, who's interested in the chart on page 23 of the report: "Hutton report table 1b shows that even in worst case scenario pensions costs/GDP will be LOWER in 2050 than now. Crisis?

Second, he claims that public-sector workers can’t expect to carry on with final-salary pensions when most private-sector workers aren’t getting them. But why should we allow ourselves to be ripped-off in the same way as private companies are ripping-off their employees? The best way to defend all workers is for someone to put up a fight – and we are going to!

Lastly, as well as trying to divide public sector workers from private sector colleagues, he wants to divide classroom teachers from promoted colleagues by claiming that ‘career-average’ schemes will be ‘fairer’ to those lower down the scale. But what Hutton intends will be unfair to ALL of us.

He hasn’t made any recommendations on the technical details of the ‘accrual rates’ in any career-average scheme – and thereby hides the truth. In principle, a career-average scheme can be constructed in a way that maintains pension levels – but their aim is to cut pensions. These schemes will be constructed to give us LESS pension even though we'll be paying in MORE. There’s nothing ‘fair’ about Hutton’s proposals – they are just another part of this Government’s agenda of cuts and privatisation.

Telling point from Mark Serwotka in the Guardian: "Public sector pensions are being cut not because they are unaffordable or unsustainable but because there's a hole in the public finances. That hole was caused by the banking crisis and the recession that resulted. It was not caused by public spending, public sector workers or their pensions. As Mervyn King said earlier this week, "the price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it" ".

Hutton did have to admit that there would have to be consultation and changes to legislation to bring in these changes. That means that we have a window – although it might be a short one – to organise the united action needed to stop these attacks.

Hutton’s report must be met with a quick response – a co-ordinated ballot across the public sector for strike action to defeat the pensions robbery.

Youth unemployment is rocketing but Hutton wants us to work until we're 68 - how does that makes sense?

Saturday 5 March 2011

NSSN Lobby demands Labour Councils stand up to the Con-Dem Axemen

A lively march and lobby organised by the National Shop Stewards Network Anti-Cuts Campaign marched to Labour's Local Government Conference in London today. At the same time, the NSSN also helped organise a march of nearly 2,000 in Cardiff to demonstrate outside the Tory and Liberal Democrat Spring Conferences.

A short rally was held as the London march assembled next to the Imperial War Museum. I was able to point to the attacks from councils across London - predominantly Labour-controlled - on education services. I joined other trade union speakers in calling for co-ordinated strike action to fight the attacks on pensions, jobs and services. The news that NUT members in Tower Hamlets had voted to take borough-wide strike action to protect central education services was applauded.

As the march made its way towards Westminster, the main slogans were against Con-Dem Cuts  - but also a message for Labour Councillors:  'No ifs, no buts, don't pass on Tory cuts'.

When we got to Transport House for the lobby, a few Labour Councillors sneaked outside to hear fiery speeches from Steve Hedley from the RMT and Socialist Councillor Dave Nellist. Eleanor Donne also spoke to mark International Women's Day on March 8th, pointing out how it will be women who bear the brunt of cuts and privatisation.

March 26th will be much, much bigger but today's event still put down a significant marker. When some TUC leaders try to send marchers away from London on the  26th just with the message 'Vote Labour' to defeat the Con-Dems, they must be answered - that's not good enough! If Labour Councils - and any future Labour Government - are going to simply carry out the same policies then we have to build a real alternative - both through mass action by trade unions and local communities - and at the ballot box through building a real trade union and socialist challenge to the main political parties.

The election of five socialist and left TDs to the Dail in last week's Irish General Election shows what can be achieved. It's time to build the same challenge here in England and Wales.