My reply to Stewart Jackson MP…
Today, Peterborough’s Evening Telegraph published a letter from it’s Conservative MP, attacking the November 30th strike action…this is my reply…
Stewart Jackson (‘Strike is inappropriate and irresponsible’, Evening Telegraph, November 29th) is highly selective in the facts he wants us to consider relating to the industrial action on November 30th.
His letter seems to imply that the cost of public sector pensions has massively increased, and that indeed public sector pensions can no longer be afforded, this simply isn’t true. Far from ‘spiralling out of control’ the cost of public sector pensions is actually set to decline and The National Audit Office, Public Accounts Committee and Office for Budget Responsibility have all clearly stated that the cost of public sector pensions as a proportion of GDP is to remain ‘broadly flat’. By removing the comparative measure with GDP, Mr Jackson is guilty of performing an intellectual slight of hand which may, if he were a street magician impress and amaze, but it is less impressive from a Member of Parliament.
Mr Jackson seems to be under the impression that public sector workers are pampered. This is far from the actual case, the median average salary-linked pension payout in the public sector is £5,600 (compared to £5,860 in the private sector) per year. Both figures are unacceptably low but one of the major issues in the private sector is that employers have actually closed salary-linked schemes to cut costs leading to workers in the private sector being unable to invest a proportion of their salary in a pension scheme. When has his government proposed measures to combat that to help private sector workers? Why is it the case that the only time Mr Jackson and indeed the government seem concerned with private sector workers is when they are being used as a stick to beat public sector workers?
I would like to see Mr Jackson attempt to survive on £5,600 per year in his retirement. Of course, being an MP, he won’t have that problem because his pension really will be ‘gold-plated’. It gets worse. Not only is his government asking public sector workers to pay more into their pension schemes (to receive less in return), it is also capping public sector pay increases at 1% (with no rise this year) at a time when inflation (spiked partially by his governments reckless VAT increase) is running at 5%. This, of course, represents a real terms pay-cut. Public sector workers are also faced with an estimated 700,000 redundancies, so we have a picture of falling wages and increased insecurity both in job and retirement prospects.
Finally, Mr Jackson notes that “only a third of union members voted for strike action”. I feel obliged to remind him that David Cameron and the Conservative Party govern this country with the support of just 23.4% of those eligible to vote (and just 35% of those who did vote). They received 10.7 million votes in a country with a population of a shade over 62 million so before they cast doubt over the democratic credentials of others they should perhaps consider their own.
How dare Mr Jackson claim that this government has “huge respect” for public sector workers when it treats them with nothing but contempt? Who would not strike when being asked to take a massive pay cut, being faced with massive job insecurity and the increasing fear that a life of hard work and dedication to public service being rewarded with being cast into abject poverty? I am proud to be supporting our hard-working public sector workers today and I would urge Mr Jackson and the government to think again before they start writing letters attacking people they claim to respect.