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November 30

Dawn Primarolo has issued the following statement in response to the industrial action taken by trade unions on November 30. 

“Of course, we all want to see strikes avoided if possible, and disruption to the public kept to a minimum. However it is important to note that nobody goes on strike, losing a day’s pay, lightly. The anger of public sector workers is clear, and it is justified. The Government have been busily peddling a myth that public sector pensions are ‘gold-plated’ and its response is to propose a three per cent increase in contributions. This increase won’t go towards future pensions – but instead will be used as an attempt to reduce the deficit. Effectively this means that public sector workers will be taxed three per cent more than those in the private sector. How on earth can the Government even pretend that’s fair?

What the Government is doing is telling public sector workers that they must pay more, work longer and receive less even though their Pensions Funds can meet their commitments on pensions payments in full. It’s no wonder that people are angry, and that unions that haven’t balloted their members for a generation have seen decisive votes in favour of industrial action.

The previous Labour government engaged in tough negotiations with trade unions on pensions. We did not always agree, but we worked together to find a solution that was fair for employees and the taxpayer generally.

I regret the disruption that the strike will cause. However, the Government need to realise that they have to engage in genuine negotiations with the unions. The Government have used the example of falling private sector pensions to justify their attack on the public sector. It is correct that many private sector workers have seen their pensions slashed, even though they did not cause the crisis and that cannot be right. All of us know that pension payments are deferred pay. The Government should be ensuring that any agreement for public sector pensions becomes a bench-mark for decent pensions which sensibly balances how long you work, how much you pay and what you can definitely expect to receive in retirement, not have a race to the bottom. Everyone deserves a fair pension and I hope that the Government will halt the rhetoric and start meaningful negotiations.”

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