Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Red Ed Faces the Ides of Autumn

'Red' Ed Showing His Support for Public Sector Pension Cuts

'Red' Ed Miliband no doubt feels revulsion that all politicians do towards the antic of Murdoch and crew at the moment (and has no doubt ripped up his latest meal ticket with the former Australian), but the fuss created by News International has certainly done him and Labour a favour in one respect, as the public sector pension dispute is off the agenda-once again.

The recent industrial action taken by the PCS and some teaching unions was a P.R. disaster for Labour and particularly their damp squib leader, yet the recent unrest was just the warm-up act. In the early Autumn, the three big beasts of the public sectore trade union movement and also the three main Labour funders contemplate balloting their members for action, over threats to their pensions. UNITE, UNISON and the GMB make up millions of public sector workers and the potential attack on their pensions has nothing to do with 'balancing the books'. It's all to do with fleecing the workers.

Take a pension contributor in Cardiff Council for example. Their current fund (covering Cardiff and the Vale) is in surplus and is contributed to by all its members. The changes recenlty made by the last British Labour Government ensured that the scheme is more sustainable for the future, yet the current proposals from Labour's Lord Hutton will mean:-

  • A Council employee taking a 5% pay cut in pension contribution increases
  • A smaller pension at retirement time
  • Worker longer for this smaller pension
  • The additional millions raised going to the Government's coffers and not the pension fund

Now call me a socialist firebrand, but I suspect that Council workers who have had a 3 year pay freeze are not likely to react favourably to this proposal. So what will 'Red' Ed do? Well, he will stick consistently to his party policy which of course is identical to the policies of both the Tories and Lib Dems - to rip off public sector workers. This is where he has a problem and let me illustrate with a very recent comment from Unison leader Dave Prentis:-

"What do we do for Labour?", he asked in Liverpool on 8th July.

"We are rooted in the working lives of public sector workers. We keep the party in touch with our members", he answered.

He added, "We support Labour "week in, week out, in local elections, up and down the country. We've been there for Labour, doing the work on the ground. We are there for Labour, we expect Labour to be there for us."

He continued, "The party needs to stop bickering and looking back, he said – we need it "now, campaigning for us, for our members and for our public services."

He then said, "We need it to be "on the same side of the street as those being harmed by the coalition."

and then, "Labour needs to work with the unions in these campaigns, but "as respected partners."

He then asked Labour Councillors (please note Neath Port Talbot & R.C.T.) to,  "support public services, that's what their priority has got to be."

On the economy, he challenged Labour to "say that there is an alternative," calling on the shadow cabinet to back a financial transaction tax and an end to Trident as an alternative to their line that Osborne's deficit reduction policy is "too far, too fast."

Adding, "If this didn't happen the party would be "hollowed-out ... A superficially different version than the Tories in dealing with cuts and privatisation."

He went onto say that, "It wasn’t you or me who decided [the Labour leader], it was our members."

'Red' Ed Miliband was crowned Labour leader directly because of the support of the three big public sector unions, yet at a time when they need him and his party most, their cries are being ignored. I cannot see how the Labour group in the British Parliament can stay loyal to their leader, when the unions who sponsor them are being stabbed in the back by old 'Red'.

So I predict that if Ed does take the Tory line and turn his back on public sector workers in the Autumn, he will be out of a job by Christmas. The only way that he would be able to get away with it is if he had the personality and charisma to persuade the party support that he was worth the hypocrisy if it meant beating the Tories, and I think that we all know the answer to that one.