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30/06/2011

Basic Rights, Not Bonuses

Placing my politics somewhere on the moderate centre (occasionally further rightwards, occasionally further leftwards), I am not not usually inclined to quote the socialist Morning Star

But today I feel great affinity with the nurses, town hall porters, teachers, civil service admin staff and so on who have bravely taken industrial action, following attempts by the coalition government to force them into shouldering a disproportionate burden of a financial crisis brought on by the political and economic elites - just as every ordinary citizen who depends on public services for their health, education, community services etc. is now expected to pay more tax for less. Whilst failing banks continue to use taxpayer's money to fuel cavalier bonuses.

This crisis has cast a light on the true nature of our political class. We have seemingly elected a government of aristocratic millionaires and career politicians to 'mend' our economy, people most untouched by the recession and most close to the big business that caused it. They have a vision for how to fix 'Broken Britain', but it is not in keeping with the vision or in the interests of the commoner - and so this will inevitably lead to a polarisation of society, a drift to more radical politics, and the onset of unrest & conflict.

And whilst the equally-elitist opposition party shamefully dithers as the mainstream press dutifully falls into line with their oligarch owners, the Morning Star is one of the last real voices of opposition standing, calling it right on this occasion:
"Striking teachers, lecturers and civil servants served notice on politicians today that they will not be sacrificial lambs for capitalism's crisis.

The workers who took action were defending not only their modest pension schemes but also our hard-won public services.

Big business and the politicians who defend its interests, irrespective of what party label they wear, are inspired by two motives.

The first is to force public-sector workers and citizens who depend on the services they deliver to finance the deficit caused by bankers' reckless adventurism.

They are pulling a classic politicians' fast one by trying to transform in the public consciousness a crisis associated with the private financial sector into a question about the justice or sustainability of the public sector.

The second is to devalue public-sector workers' pensions arrangements so as to make privatisation more profitable and thus more likely.

Private-sector vultures intent on tearing into the body of our public services constantly complain to politicians about the cost of maintaining pension schemes when taking over operations from the state.

They would like to emulate the scandalous treatment in recent years of workers' pensions in the private sector.

What took place with regard to occupational pensions in the private sector is scandalous, with schemes closed to new entrants and final-salary arrangements all but eradicated.

Then there's the companies that walked away from their responsibilities, leaving tens of thousands of workers bereft of pensions they had paid for.

Add to that the history of financial institutions mis-selling private pensions to individuals and it is clear that the private sector is the last area to serve as a model for the public sector.

When Tory ministers assert that even if they have their way in forcing workers to pay more for longer and for reduced rewards, teachers and civil servants will still have some of the best pensions around, this just emphasises how much damage has already been done to pensions in the private sector.

The Con-Dem government is encouraging a race to the bottom because it sees workers' pensions as an inconvenient burden on business and the exchequer.

In fact, pensions for all workers are simply deferred wages, which have to be defended against the government's premeditated, politically motivated windfall tax.

The only windfall tax meriting support is one on the super-profits of the energy companies' oligopoly, the banking sector and the rapacious supermarkets.

It beggars belief that the politicians and big-business media can keep a straight face when they unite to denounce public-sector pensions as gold-plated or unaffordable.

Research group Income Data Services points out that FTSE 100 directors can rely on average pensions of £170,000 a year, while MPs will still have a pension scheme that knocks those for teachers and civil servants into a cocked hat.

How enlightening it would be if every Mail or Telegraph leader writer and TV commentator who joins the gang-up against public-sector workers' pensions were made to disclose their own salary and pension arrangements.

The same goes for the front-bench politicians who make a huge song and dance about their marginal differences while uniting in opposition to the justice of the public-sector workers' case and to their reluctant decision to strike to get their voices heard.

Today's splendid action was the first battle in a long campaign to defend our public sector and those work in it."

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