Today I strike
Today I will be standing on a picket line.
Instead of giving you the Union line, or trying to make sense of what the media and politicians are saying, I thought I would give you the reasons of one simple local government officer as to why I’m striking. This isn’t the view of the whole Local Government workforce, it isn’t even the views of all the WLLG crew, but it is why I’ll be outside my office and not in it.
So my reasons:
A while back a colleague put forward an argument that the difficulty with this strike from a Local Government point of view is that our scheme is noticeably different to the other public sectors schemes. They are right. Importantly our scheme is funded. Though this isn’t a reason not to strike.
The pension negotiations have been going on between Government and the Unions for about a year.
Both sides seem to have recognised that the LGPS scheme should be dealt with differently. However, like the other schemes we will be affected by these proposals. Though I haven’t made my mind up about career salary average based pensions, it is clear we will have to pay more. But really this isn’t the issue for me. I’m of an age where 65 seems a long way away; I’ve kind of accepted that by the time I reach that age my pension will change due to politics, economics and population.
The issue instead for me is the stance the Government seems to be taking.
The constant message from them seems to be that the public sector is lazy, expensive and crippling the country. The Government seemed to start these pension negotiations on the attack (changing, with little consultation, our pension increase linked to the CPI instead of the RPI). Negotiations have been going on for a year and little has changed (alright there are two parties in any negotiations, but you see the point?). This doesn’t feel like they want to change our pensions because of Lord Hutton’s report or the economy, it feels, to me at least, more like an attack on both our pensions and pay.
However there is another reason why I should strike even though my pension is different from the teacher who lives next door.
So I can strike for those in Local Government who want to but feel they can’t because a member of public would suffer if they did.
This goes beyond Local Government. I can strike for those else were in the public sector who feel they can’t but want to. It is also about Public Sector solidarity. We are in this together.
You don’t know how good you’ve got it
I have friends in the Private Sector who don’t have a pension.
When I told them I was striking they pointed this out to me and said I didn’t know how lucky I had it. Well you know what? I’m striking for them to. This shouldn’t be a private/public sector debate. This should be a debate about why workers need pensions and then how those pensions are actually funded. I think it’s wrong my friends don’t have pensions because their companies don’t offer it. Lets forget the sector differences and actually work together to ensure we have sufficient pensions through working.
The fact that this has turned into a private/public sector debate, is again partly because of the Government’s attitude to the Public Sector. It does feel at times that in their eyes the private sector is the golden boy of the class in the Governments eyes.
15 minute strike/ahhh you’re disrupting the country/30% turnout
Some of the rhetoric from the Government has made things worse.
When it was suggested that we could strike for 15 minutes, this simply made me want to strike more. A strike in my lunch hour is not a strike.
Government please don’t treat us like nursery kids. Yes our actions are going to cause disruption, but have you considered, we may have thought about that already? After all we ourselves will feel that disruption.
So we won’t be able to take our kids to school, our rubbish won’t be collected and on top of all of that we will have our pay docked. Yet we are willing to go through this (along with some unions who rarely strike) because this is important to us. If it takes disruption to prove that, so be it.
Oh and the argument about the turnout is annoying. By this argument many MPs and Councillors shouldn’t be representing their constituents because for their elections they had a turnout of around 30%. Why then should it be different in a union election? Lets not have one rule for one and another for another.
So you see once again, its because of the way Government is treating the public sector that I want to strike.
Finally, I’m striking because Local Government and the Public Sector is being forcefully changed.
From cuts to new acts, I see a Local Government changing into something I don’t recognise. Though the issue is pensions, for me this strike is about a lot more. It is about the future of the Public Sector.
That is why I’m striking.
Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org