Why GMB Members Are On Strike

30 Nov 2011

Work longer, pay more, get less is a policy for poverty that will cost the taxpayer billions says GMB.

With more than 200,000 GMB members employed doing jobs in public sector, in local government, the NHS and civil service, taking part in biggest national strike for decades GMB National Secretary for Public Services set out why they are taking strike action. See GMB release on Nov 30th for details of these events. Images from picket lines and events across the UK will be available soon at http://www.gmb.org.uk/pspc

Brian Strutton, GMB’s National Secretary for Public Services said “More than 200,000 GMB members in the public sector are taking part in biggest national strike for decades fighting for their right and that of the next generation to have dignity in retirement funded by affordable, secure pension schemes. As government rhetoric and contempt for public sector workers and the public grows, these GMB members from all corners of the country - who provide every public service imaginable from administrators to zookeepers - are on strike to insist that government negotiate with unions over public sector pension reform.

GMB members currently saving for modest pensions- which will average less than £4,000 a year - want to protect the pension schemes that stand between them and a retirement reliant on the state. The announcements by the chancellor yesterday, as well as the shameful unfairness of further pay restraint on already hard-pressed public sector workers,  pushes the possibility of a pensions deal further away. The contribution rises government want are plainly unjustified and unaffordable, while moving the goal posts on retirement age to 67 mid-negotiation smacks of deliberate deception.

Most GMB members taking action today are members of the Local Government Pension Scheme, a scheme with £165billion in assets which the Chancellor is happy to exploit to fund infrastructure projects but refuses to relent on his £1billion tax on its members that will force thousands of savers to leave the scheme. As Treasury’s figures unravel, the extent of the government attack on millions of care workers, teaching assistants, social workers and others becomes clear.  A School Dinner Lady working part time for £8,000 a year who starts in the government’s proposed new scheme aged 45 will lose £400 a year in retirement if she retires at the current retirement age of 65.  If she works on to 68 she will get nearly £700 less than under the current, sustainable LGPS.  So for her the government’s 3.2% tax on pension saving - announced by George Osborne in October 2010 – means she will have to find another £5,500 on top of her current contributions in order to stay saving in the new LGPS. See notes to Editors for more on this example.

So the disruption caused today by government’s refusal to negotiate with unions is dwarfed by the cost to individuals and taxpayers of George Osborne’s cavalier approach to 12 million people’s pensions – those still at work and those with pensions in payment.  Even as the cost of public sector schemes falls,  the cabinet, full of millionaires, are pricing frontline public sector workers out of saving. Despite the bullying rhetoric of Minister after Minister condemning workers for taking strike action, the public are not fooled.  The unprecedented number of workers on strike today demonstrates how wrong the government is.  Everyone deserves to be able to save for retirement, public and private sector alike yet government policy is intent only on increasing the number of people completely reliant on the state in retirement.

Workers in the private sector know that they won’t be a penny better off as a result of government’s cuts to the pensions of care workers and paramedics.  No one benefits by increasing the number of people retiring into poverty.  The hundreds of thousands of GMB members on strike today know this, it’s time the government saw sense.”