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Miliband labels pensions strikes a “mistake”

Labour leader Ed Miliband says unions should rethink plans to strike over public sector pension changes this Thursday amid concerns industrial action will alienate the public.

Around 750,000 public sector workers, including teachers and civil servants, are expected to strike on June 30 after negotiations over Government plans to increase employee pension contributions and raise the retirement age broke down earlier today.

Miliband (pictured) says strike action would be a “mistake”.

He says: “Strikes are a sign of failure on both sides and Thursday’s industrial action is a mistake.

“Even with just hours to go I would urge both the unions and the Government to think again.

“I understand why teachers are so angry with the Government. But I urge them to think about whether causing disruption in the classroom will help people understand their arguments.”

However, union leaders refuse to back down.

National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower says: “The Government has done nothing more today than confirm it has no intention of listening to teachers.

“They are simply draconian changes that will see teachers paying more, working longer and getting less.

“The action on Thursday is unavoidable and unless the Government starts listening rather than simply imposing its will, it leaves us with little choice other than to consider further action.”

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Comments

There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. And if the Government doesn’t think again, what should the teachers do then Mr Miliband? Meekly accept a salary cut, longer working hours and reduced benefits in retirement?

  2. Quite right Mark, can you imagine having to work past 60 and only, ONLY having a pension linked to CPI rather than RPI! The horror. Good job the taxpayer isn’t getting the bill for it…. oh, hold on.

  3. Mark

    Well alas, I think the Public sector have to accept that what they have enjoyed in the past, we can’t afford to continue for the future.

    Also – why should Public Sector Workers get such a good pension – when those in the Private Sector can’t. (and the arguement over wages between the two now being much closer – accepting their are poorly paid positions in both – defeates the arguement that the Public Sector person gets paid ‘less’ for the same type of job and the pension compensated for that).

    Which is why Mr Miliband may not want to support the Coalition Government on these areas – but accepts the decision to alter Public Sector pensions has to be made – and the sooner the better for the Goverment Finances.

  4. Paul – it’s good to see the ‘politics of envy’ alive and well.

    If pensions in the private sector aren’t as good as public sector schemes, that’s a problem for the private sector isn’t it? Is reducing public scheme benefits going to make private schemes any better?

    After all, life expectancy is greater in Kensington than it is in Glasgow, but no one is suggesting that the way to solve the problem is to encourage people in Kensington to smoke more.

  5. My wife is a teacher and she is looking forward to plowing more into her pension only to get less at retirement. She has asked to explain why this should be so. I have no answer.

  6. Pension “cuts” are being experienced abousolutely everyone in the private sector by way of falling annuity rates and changes to state pension. Why should public sector pensions be immune to the same factors?

  7. Mark | 29 Jun 2011 10:00 am

    Paul – it’s good to see the ‘politics of envy’ alive and well.

    If pensions in the private sector aren’t as good as public sector schemes, that’s a problem for the private sector isn’t it? Is reducing public scheme benefits going to make private schemes any better?

    After all, life expectancy is greater in Kensington than it is in Glasgow, but no one is suggesting that the way to solve the problem is to encourage people in Kensington to smoke more.

    ——–

    People in Glasgow have a personal choice over whether to smoke

    People employed in the private sector have no choice over cuts or losing jobs etc.

    What we have here is private sector individuals not having a choice over keeping good pension provision but they are FORCED to pay for public sector pensioners to have great pensions via tax. Even in a funded scheme like the LGPS the first £300 of council tax only goes toward paying pensions and not for council services. Costs need to be capped in the unfunded schemes else it will be the tail wagging the dog.

  8. @Mark & Adam Lewis

    It’s nothing to do with envy or some kind of attack on public sector workers. The simple fact is we can’t afford to continue to pay the current pension arrangements due to economic reasons, the exact same reasons which are affecting private sector workers.

    Public sector workers need to understand this basic fact and live with the changes, exactly the same as the millions of private sector workers are having to do.

  9. @Danny. According to reports from the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee done in the last six months public sector pensions are affordable and sustainable. Even the Hutton Report states that the cost of public sector pensions will fall from 1.9% of GDP to 1.4% by 2060. These same public sector workers have already had pay freezes for the last two years so they fully understand the implications of the need to cut the deficit. They just feel this is one step too far.

  10. Adam Lewis | 30 Jun 2011 11:08 am

    ———–

    Well according to the Office of National Statistics today the average Teacher’s Pensions pot is £500,000 which is more than 20 times the private sector equivalent.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8607277/Public-sector-strike-500000-pension-pot-of-striking-teachers-revealed.html

  11. Surely this is more a criticism of private sector pensions. And as for the much quoted, taxpayers pay their pensions, the last time I checked teachers also pay tax.

  12. Did anyone say that teachers do not pay tax?

    It is about fairness. Individuals in the UK have a very strange definition of this. We are seeing the union definition of fairness come out too here which goes something like this

    – If men and women get different annuity rates but women’s rates are lower then this is “unfair” on women. This is basically because they get the lower rate and so demand equality, i.e. uprating.

    – If women get their state pension at an earlier age than men this this is ok and they will fight equalisation of the pension ages. This is because equalisation here would make them worse off.

    So the same argument (equality) is fair in one case and not fair in the other. In truth it is all about whether you are going to be better or worse off and nothing to do with “fairness”.

    This is the problem many have with public sector pensions. Yes we are all paying tax towards the schemes but only those employed in the public sector benefit.

    It is all very well saying that private sector schemes should be as good but this is unaffordable for private sector employers who do not have the taxpayer to bail them out. Royal Mail is semi-public sector and the goverment is going to have to underwrite the £10bn deficit as it is practicallty insolvent. However they are not going to extend this to all private sector employers.

    Note also that most are happy for those in the Police, Armed Forces and firefighters to have such pensoins and associated death benefits plus the tax-free injury benefit schemes. It is most of the rest of the public sector that we question.

  13. “Surely this is more a criticism of private sector pensions. And as for the much quoted, taxpayers pay their pensions, the last time I checked teachers also pay tax.”

    Irrelevant. What difference does it make if the state gives you money, and you then give some of that money back to the state? That’s not fairness, that’s job creation for HMRC.

  14. I have to commute 58 miles a day. Maybe I should go on strike so that I only have to pay 75p a litre for petrol and not the current £1.35.

    The costs of providing a pension have increased subsantially, due to lower gilt yields and longer life expectancy. To argue that only one party, the tax payer should fund this increased cost is clearly not realistic.

    However I’d be happy to continue the status quo if all those reciving benefits from a tax payer funded definded benefit scheme agree to euthanasia at the average life expectency of when they joined their scheme.

    That way they pay in the same as in the past but the pay out is kept in line with the past too.

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