Nov 16 2011 By Angela Eagle
AFTER months of grandstanding, the Tory-led Government signalled that it was finally prepared to enter into proper negotiations with the unions. This comes only weeks ahead of planned strike action by the unions on November 30th.
Even at this late stage I want to see the Government and trade unions exhaust every avenue to avoid industrial action. The Government must leave no stone unturned in its negotiations and must seek a genuinely sustainable agreement that it fair to public sector workers and fair to taxpayers.
The Government’s 3% pensions increase in contributions has nothing to do with the wider debate on pension reform and is geared towards squeezing public sector workers to help pay down the deficit.
This increase was imposed without any negotiation with public sector workers.
At a time when public sector workers are already facing a pay freeze, higher inflation driven by the Government’s VAT increase and the biggest squeeze on living standards since the 1920s, this amounts to a 3% increase in tax that many families simply can’t afford. The worry is that if more people opt out of occupational schemes because they can’t afford the increase, it could end up costing the taxpayer more.
The Government has already unilaterally changed the indexation of public sector pensions from RPI to CPI wiping 15% off their value – this permanent measure will be felt long after the deficit has gone.
With the economy flatlining, the last thing that anybody needs is a strike that could hurt some of the most vulnerable in society. That is why I, along with my Labour colleagues, will be urging the Government and unions to explore every other possible course.