Pensions

Hutton's pension heist

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Much of the coverage of John Hutton's proposals for what amounts to a major attack on public sector pensions concentrates (rightly) on the planned changes and their likely impact on workers. But little light has been shed on what Hutton and the government are trying to achieve.

This is an important omission, because the proposed changes, especially the plans for increased employee contributions, represent an attempt to shift much of the cost of providing pensions from the Exchequer to public sector workers.

Boeing beaten back

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We have just concluded a 57 day strike. People have really sacrificed over that period. But it felt good to conclude it with a significant win and even over job security - where the company seemed intractable - we made gains.

The world changed after we went out on strike. There was a Lehman Brothers brokerage firm in the US and the banks hadn't started failing and then a lot of bad news hit so we were lucky to get as much out of this settlement as we did.
The rank and file membership is the backbone of any work stoppage, and ours was resolute. We were absolutely determined that we were going to win. Less than 1 percent of our members crossed the line. Even though you had people hurting they were talking to the press saying, "I'm willing to stay out six months or as long as it takes."

Unions: Tiers and Fears

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Union leaders have hailed as a major victory the government's recent announcement of measures aimed at ending the two-tier workforce in privatised services.

Under the new arrangements, an existing code of practice covering local authority contracts will be extended to the rest of the public sector.

Unions are hopeful that the move signals the end of the current situation, whereby pay and conditions for existing employees are protected when a service is privatised, but any new employees subsequently taken on are hired under much worse terms.

A Taste of Things to Come

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New Labour is presenting its attack on pensions as a necessary response to the ageing of the population. But in reality something else is at stake - the latest stage in ratcheting up the stakes in intercapitalist competition.

Three years ago the leaders of Britain, Italy and Spain established the Blair-Berlusconi-Aznar axis to give an added push to the copying throughout Europe of the attacks on workers' conditions and rights pioneered by Reagan and Thatcher in the US and Britain. Aznar fell off the axis a year ago, but the push has been joined by the French government with its renewed attacks on pension rights and its rescinding of the 35-hour week, and by the German government with its slashing of unemployment benefits.

Pension Revolt: Time for the TUC to Get its Finger Out

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Nothing better illustrates the utter cynicism at the heart of New Labour than the timing of its decision to launch an all-out assault on public sector pensions.

Nearly all of the key announcements - which affect millions of workers in the NHS, schools and universities, the civil service and local government - were made in the past two months, in a hasty rush of activity. With customary double-speak, health secretary John Reid and education secretary Ruth Kelly have both been trying to make out in their inimitably patronising fashion that doing away with existing pensions entitlements and making people work longer is actually a tremendously egalitarian measure.

Pension Revolt: Opening the Second Front

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The pension revolt gathers strength.

Thousands of trade unionists took part in the TUC Day of Action on 18 February against the government's latest attack on pensions. In over 50 towns and cities public sector workers in a range of unions demonstrated, rallied and lobbied Labour MPs against the biggest attack on public sector workers since the Second World War.

Age Concern

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The TUC is finally fighting back in defence of pensions, says Tony Phillips.

The TUC call for a day of action in defence of pensions on 18 February could be the beginning of a more general fight against New Labour's recent attacks. The government has announced that some of the changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme will come into force as early as April this year. That has forced Unison, which represents 800,000 local government workers but whose leadership is one of the most pro-Labour, to promise action. Its consultative ballot was overwhelmingly in favour of national strike action on 21 March.

Pensions: The Life to Come

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Our future welfare depends on creating a radically different pension system, argues Robin Blackburn.

There is no other issue that takes us so quickly to the heart of the problems of today's welfare state and tomorrow's capitalism than the pensions crisis. This is because pension provision will soon be required to assure the livelihood of something like a fifth of the population for many decades ahead. The implications for capital are fundamental. After all, the capitalist disposes of today's economic assets and wages fund in order to be able to control the future flow of profits.

PPP = Poxy Private Pension

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How the World Bank and your boss are conspiring to wreck your retirement.

Slumbering great hulk that it is, the TUC can sustain an extraordinary level of inertia for very long periods. But when it eventually does get off its arse it can still be quite an impressive sight. The last time leaders of the TUC made any serious attempt to call a national demonstration was in 1992, when there was an upsurge of anger throughout the land over Tory plans for a second wave of pit closures. The turnout on the demo was massive and helped force Michael Heseltine to impose a (temporary) moratorium on further closures.

The Real Slim Shady

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What have the rail, power and pensions industries got in common? This would be funny if it wasn't such a disaster.

The more Blair fumbles around for anything resembling factual information which might justify laying waste to Iraq, the more he ends up looking like the real Slim Shady. Much the same can be said for our glorious leader's stance on privatisation--sly and deceitful. The yarn that's spun is that everything is going according to plan--the reality is more like it's all going down the pan.

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