Why I went on strike – it’s about us all not just the public sector

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Today I took the decision to strike. This wasn’t easy. I am a good worker who feels guilty I have had to let colleagues and students down by not going in. I will also lose a day’s pay which I can’t really afford to do. Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly. The people I marched with through Eastbourne were teachers, nurses, university workers, midwives, probation officers to name but a few. Every single one of them would rather have been doing the job they care about, serving the public but they were out in force. By virtue of working in public service you have often chosen a job for which money is not the motivation to go in.

I believe this strike and the campaign it supports are both vital and it isn’t purely a public sector issue. Many people around the country who work in all sectors face the same problems with salaries shrinking and cost of living increasing. I know the government has done all it can to pit the public sector workers against the private sector but I hope that we can get the message across about why it is a fight for all pensions, workers rights and fair taxation. Just because people in the private sector have poor pension provision doesn’t mean the public sector should join them. In fact surely the opposite is true, public sector workers should have excellent pension provision but so should private sector workers. If they erode public sector pensions then the private sector have no hope of regaining good pensions.
My pension contributions have already increased by 1.15% in the last 2 months which relates to a real decrease in my take home pay by £25 a month, I will get less money at the end of my career than I would have done when I put less money into it (the government has changed how it is calculated from RPI to CPI – a 15% cut) and I will have to work longer than I did before. My pension is part of my pay and the package I signed up for. If you sign up for £X salary and your boss announced you would lose a percentage of that for no reason, you wouldn’t be very happy. Well that is what the government has done to 6 million public sector workers (and to those who haven’t taken up their pension. Why? You are giving up part of your salary as the employer isn’t giving you their contributions. In my pension’s case the employer puts in 16% of the value of my salary).
On top of this I haven’t had a pay increase for years and won’t have one for years to come, inflation is at 5% and I have to pay to travel to London as there aren’t enough jobs in my local area my ticket is going to increase by 6%. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that there will come a point where I will have no disposable income after rent, bills etc are paid. IS it a surprise retail spending is down? This will effect every retailer and small business owner as the erosion of wages an pensions will mean less money to spend. This is why everybody needs to support this strike as what the government is doing will effect everybody.
The BBC compared public and private pensions yesterday. Amongst the pertinent facts are that of the 29 million people who work in the UK 23 million work in the private sector and only 3.2 million of these are in a pension. Surely this is a bad thing? What will the 19.8 million without pensions do in retirement? Especially the younger ones who also can’t buy property and who’s savings are getting 0.5% if they have any. Won’t we all have to pay more taxes to support all the people without pensions? In the public sector 5.3 million (ish) have pensions, a massive 88% of public sector workers and that money will allay some of the pressure on the state in the future.
Unison have an excellent page which debunks some of the myths and I urge everybody to read it before they believe what the government and Tory press have to say.
I hope that this will be resolved and we won’t have to strike again but if we do I hope that the propaganda against public sector workers will be debunked and that people will take the time to understand why we’re doing this. If you are against the strike or think you have the right to shout abuse at us then remember it’s not about us versus you it is about us all fighting together. When we win our battle we can fight with you to win better rights for you and your fellow workers. Maybe one day there will be fair pensions for all.
Finally, If you are wondering what the Union movement has done for you (even if you aren’t a member or don’t think you can be) here’s a few things:
  • Paid holidays
  • End of Child Labour
  • The minimum wage
  • Maternity Leave
  • End of discrimination because you are pregnant, got married or are ill.
And here’s an Australian video to illustrate the point (some examples are a bit Aussie-specific):
Maybe we’ll add – saved our pensions to this.
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1 thought on “Why I went on strike – it’s about us all not just the public sector”

  1. Very valid points well made.
    I work in the City of London for a professional body whose members are predominantly working in the private sector. I don’t have children, haven’t had any reason to use any healthcare or emergency service yesterday, didn’t go to visit my public library or local council and didn’t have any disruption to my usual commute yesterday. Shame as I would have really liked to show my support to the people on strike.
    I used to work in a museum library for several years and in those years didn’t feel that I could afford to lose any part of my pay to join the pension scheme. I am now on a better salary and have paid into the work-related pension scheme since 2007. The only way I can increase the money going into it is by increasing my own contributions from 4% to 6% of my salary. Given that my pension is directly linked to the stock market, I have no idea how much I will get in the end.

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