Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Only Plaid Support the Unions

As I publish this blog article, the start of a huge campaign to defend the very existence of the public sector pensions has started. The trade unions taking part in Thursday's industrial action are not doing so to play politics. Many of these trade union members have never taken strike action in their lives, and their unions are not affiliated to Labour. This is about defending their future; a future with a dignified retirement instead of a poorer one. Is that really unreasonable to stand up for?

I am proud that my party will on the first strike day, refuse to cross a picket line either at the seat of the Welsh or British Government. It is admitedly no more than a gesture but an important one, as we will be the only party represented in Wales to do so. Needless to say, the Tories and Libs will happily hop and skip over the picket lines, safe in the knowledge that all the media attention will be turned on Labour MPs. I will be interested to see how many Welsh Labour MPs will cross the PCS picket line tomorrow, just a year after sucking up to the trade union movement to fund their re-election.

I hope that the action tomorrow is successful and that there is a marked change in the attitude of the British Government to the public sector, but what really concerns me is the ability of the Labour party to so blatantly ignore their core support, in an embarrassing attempt to win over the Tory soft vote that they need, to win back Middle England. The Plaid leadership have made their position clear in the statement below, so please feel free to compare it to Red Ed's thoughts on this matter.

The UK government’s ill-thought-out actions could threaten the very future of the public sector pension scheme according to Plaid Cymru.

The party said that proposed changes to the scheme are in danger of undermining efforts to attract new members, cutting off essential income for the scheme in future years. Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs have expressed their support for public sector workers protesting against the level of cuts to public sector finances including the threat to workers’ pension funds. Civil Servants and teaching unions will hold a full day’s strike action on Thursday (30/6/2011).

Plaid Cymru Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones AM said:-

“The scale of the cuts announced has clearly not been thought through by the Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition in Westminster. But to target public sector pension funds is a cynical move which will punish ordinary working people for the sins of the financial sector in the City of London.

“The UK government’s plans could undermine the existence of public sector pension schemes, by eroding the incentive for workers to join it. Such a prospect is extremely concerning for workers throughout the public sector.

“In Wales, our teachers and other public sector workers are being threatened by decisions that still lie in the hands of the UK government. Pay and conditions should be the responsibility of the Welsh government, so that the people of Wales can hold the government to account for decision made about these issues.”

Plaid Cymru MPs have all lent their support to a parliamentary EDM supporting the protest.

Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams MP said:-

“In Plaid Cymru we support the right of committed public sector employees to withdraw their labour in industrial action if their working terms and conditions are being undermined without agreement.

“Public sector workers traditionally earn far less than colleagues in the private sector, and an adequate pension is a key element in enticing high quality individuals into professions like teaching, when they could earn far more in other sectors of the economy.”

Monday, 27 June 2011

Who's For a P.T.A. Punch-Up?

I have to admit not being a massive fan of the current British Government, but even this cynical soul was shocked by the sheer vindictiveness of current British Education Minister Michael Gove. This diplomatic genius thinks that is would be a 'spiffing wheeze' to get parents to break the lawful teachers strike on Thursday, encouraging a direct conflict between the two groups that need to work more closely together, if education standards are to improve.

Of course, Gove and co are not after a deal, for they have smelt the blood of unions not having public support and an opposition in Labour, actually backing the Tory position. They want capitulation from the unions leading to the eventual collapse of the main public sector pensions, or victory through failed strikes and carte blanche to do what they like, as well as the same collapse of the public sector pensions.

So what are Labour doing to defend their union friends you may well ask? Well to quote the bard, bugger all. In fact they are doing worse than this and criticising any strike action so to avoid upsetting the Sun readership, as well as 'having an internal review'. I wait with interest to see what the big union leaders do, when 'their party' turns on them in their hour of need in the coming months. Just how will they spin that to their members?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pension Dispute - The Affiliates are Coming

Look Out Affiliates, Here Come Labour

I am constantly impressed by the bare faced cheek in which the Labour party have pretended to be on the side of the unions in the current public sector pension dispute, when they would have taken almost identical action to the Lib Cons. They were even using advice from the same political adviser, who is also still a Labour Lord in the British Parliament. Yet to date, they have managed to avoid any public criticism from the unions.

However, they have a problem on the horizon, as their main affiliated unions are also likely to ballot their public sector members and will expect support after the funding they give to Labour. Unison, Unite and the GMB have millions of members in the public sector who are all facing pension cuts, so how is Red Ed Miliband going to handle this one? This of course is one of the main reasons why the Lib Cons are deliberately ramping up the dispute, as nothing would give them greater pleasure than to see Red Ed have a public spat with the unions, on an issue that currently the public are at best agnostic on.

Of course, in the middle are the public sector workers, many of whom work in manual or semi-manual low paid jobs and with a salary, pension and life expectancy far less than the London politicians squabbling over how to take 'deferred pay' off them. The plot thickens.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Tories-Labour-Libs & Pensions. The Difference Being?

The Three Stooges

So finally, Labour have come out and given an opinion on the public sector pension dispute and surprise, surprise, they are sitting on the fence. They are correct in stating that the LibCons have set a trap in terms of encouraging industrial action, but the trap was set as much for Labour as it was the trade unions. There was absolutely no way that Red Ed Miliband was going to be seen on a picket line during the current economic circumstances, as the New Labour focus groups will have been screaming at him not to do it.

So, where does that leave the unions and what will be their reaction to Labour's response? To an extent all three British parties are correct in encouraging negotiation rather than strike action but of course at the same time, the LibCons have also been goading the unions into strike action, hoping to trap both them and the Labour party. So far, all the unions who have voted for strike action are non-affiliated and so have no financial tie to Labour. However, the vast majority of their leadership are Labour members and will quietly be furious that their party has once again, stepped away from supporting them.

What surprises me is that anyone is remotely surprised that Labour are ducking the issue. After all, they were planning to do exactly the same thing with public sector pensions and even the man advising the LibCons is a former Labour Minister. As someone who works in Local Government and pays into a public sector pension, I am prepared to accept that there will have to be some changes, but we have already accepted changes in the last few years and what is being proposed, is well beyond what is required to 'balance the books'.

I have said before and repeat the accusation now, that this has nothing to do with sustaining the public sector pension system, but all about managing the collapse of it. For all these drastic changes will do, is to discourage new membership of the pension schemes and encourage people to leave. It does not matter if the revised schemes are still better than what is on offer in the private sector, as many workers are very sceptical about the whole pension system anyway, after the banking collapse.

So in conclusion, all three British parties are standing as one in what they want from the pension changes, with two trying to goad unions into action and the other sitting well and truly on the fence. There is no sign of any sensible compromises as all three British parties have allowed for savage public sector pension cuts in their figures to 'save the economy'. In other words, they want some of the poorest paid workers in the UK to sacrifice some of their 'deferred pay' to save the bankers' blushes.

On a point of information, did you know that British MPs have one of the best pension schemes in Europe? Please feel free to curse.