The strikes ‘Can we afford NOT to take part?’ asks NIPSAs Liam Friel

Liam Friel.
Liam Friel.

The strikes ‘Can we afford NOT to take part?’ asks NIPSAs Liam Friel

Many public sector workers will be taking part in industrial action this Wednesday, in what will be the biggest wave

of industrial action since the winter of discontent, writes NIPSA Union branch chairman and Derry Trades Union

Council representative, LIAM FRIEL. He suggests the proposed pension cuts “are nothing short of stealing.”

This strike is in response to the Tory led coalition’s attacks on public sector pensions.

The British Treasury still says that negotiations are ongoing and that ‘there are wildcat elements hell-bent on strike action’. The truth is, that no-one is hell-bent on strike action, n-one can afford to lose out on pay for participating in industrial action, but no one can afford not to take part in industrial action.

The British Government is being economical with the truth as they have already taken unilateral action without any consultation with Unions.

The UK Government is increasing the pension contributions for public servants and expects to raise in the region of £6.3bn.

This money is being raised not to fund public service pensions but to reduce the public debt caused to a large extent by the bailout of banks and other financial institutions.

The same Government, without any consultation whatsoever, have reduced the value of a public service pension by at least 15% over the lifetime of the pensioner.

New Civil Service employees will pay 1.5% extra, which is deducted from their gross salary, to pay for widows and dependents.

Contributions

From my perspective as a public sector employee, ALL of my contributions for my Retirement Pension were removed before my salary was determined. When benchmark salaries were agreed after comparison with the private sector the first thing the Department of Finance and Personnel did was to reduce them by an average of 8%. This approach was also taken so that they could save the administrative expense of having to make deductions every month and separately account for a retirement pension fund. So the sole reason why Public Sector schemes appears to be “non-contributory” is one of efficiency.

If the UK Government was to proceed with their proposals then it would only be fair if salaries had the 8% reinstated and backdated for length of service before they then decide to take the additional 3.5%. It is understandable therefore, why many public sector workers and I see this attack on pensions as nothing short of stealing.

On top of the average 8% of pay already deducted for pension, public sector workers have suffered a pay freeze in 2010 and 2011 and it is highly likely that further restrictions will be applied to public sector pay in 2012 and beyond.

In essence the real value of pay has fallen over a period of years due to government policy on depressing public sector pay rates.

Another lie

So what of the ‘gold plated pensions’? Again an out and out lie.

The average local government pension (bin men, road sweepers, admin staff at your local council office etc). is just under £4,000 per year and for women in this area it is even less, averaging around £2,800 per year.

In the Civil Service the average occupational pension is just over £6,000 per year and in the Health Service the average is just over £7,000 per year.

Payments of these pensions actually save the British Treasury money because payments of these pensions mean that public service pensioners will not have any entitlement to social security benefits or will have payments of benefits they are entitled to significantly reduced.

The average civil servant featured would have to work a whole four years more to get the same pension payout as they’re currently due. And even if they wait seven years to hang up their boots, retiring at 67, (as the government have proposed) they’d be just £2,567 a year better off.

The reality of the increase in pension contributions is that we will be working longer, paying more and receiving less.

This one day strike to highlight the attacks on public services and public service workers. Yes, the strike will affect the public, but it is the British Government who are themselves attacking the public.

Their Austerity Programme will do untold damage to a range of services relied upon by the public and by supporting this strike you will be supporting services in your area, you will be supporting the need for decent public services, you will be supporting the right to a decent standard of living for pensioners and you will be sending a message to the British Government that they cannot get away with attacking ordinary hard working individuals any longer.

A march will leave Altnagelvin Hospital at 12 noon on Wednesday the 30th November and make its way to the Guildhall for a rally at 1pm.

When you see a picket line, please show your support for this strike, all of our futures are at stake.