Strikingly not just about pensions

Tomorrow I put my money where my mouth is. My first ever strike. I only recently joined the union at work- ten years after starting there. Remiss really. I didn’t join straight away because I was on a temporary contract and thought the money better off in my pocket. I didn’t join after that because I was told that I would have to join Prospect, as a member of professional staff, and I wasn’t overly impressed by them. PCS is the biggest union, and upon investigating it after the recent onslaught on the public sector, I discovered I was actually allowed to join them too. Not that I think it is right that there are three unions in our Department- (more in others or so I’ve heard) does someone not get the concept of union? Unity is strength? When was the last time members of First Division went out on strike for the protection of the rights of the lowest paid in their organisation? I bet Ministers would soon notice if there were no-one about to give them briefings.
Anyway, beside the point. I’m now a union member, and as such am striking tomorrow because my union has voted to do so. But let me be clear. I am not striking, as has been loudly proclaimed in the media, to protect my pension rights. Nor do I think that is what was asked on the ballot. I am striking in protest at all aspects of the strategy being followed by the government, of cuts and changes to public services upon which millions of people rely, and which hit hardest those least able to manage without the help of the state. I don’t object to some changes in my own personal pension conditions. I think it should be more sensitively thought out than just “pay more, work longer, get less”, and should be aligned with measures to improve private sector pensions. But I do object to valued services being closed because local authorities have not been given enough resources to continue providing them, even though they are needed. I object to the fact that many people with disabilities and mental health conditions have been hurled into a world of uncertainty where essential supports have been removed, and they face being told by someone with little understanding of their case history or condition that they are “fit for work”, even though there are alarmingly few employers out there who are willing to make the adjustments (even if only in attitude) necessary to enable them to do their jobs. Attitudes like that of twonk MP Nadine Dorries, saying people can’t be that disabled if they can tweet all day. Well, if I’ve missed all those vacancies for home based tweeters with flexible hours, forgive me. But the biggest disability many people with “impairments” face is the employer’s inability to see that jobs can be done in different ways. That 9-5 isn’t everything, that speed isn’t always best, that equipment is available to help, that not everyone in a team needs to do the same job in the same way to be of equal worth.
Slight tangent, sorry. I’m not striking for me. Well, not just me. Yes, I signed up for certain conditions of service in choosing to do the job I do, in the public sector- ok pay, good holiday and pension, compassionate employers with values I believed in. Instead of say, becoming a banker. Amazing salary, long hours, high risk, lots of perks, oh yeah, I doubt their pensions are too shoddy either. But not so much on the ethics.
I believe the state is there to meet the needs of the people. You determine what those needs are, then figure out how to provide. You don’t say, I’m sorry, you’re not allowed to need that any more. There is money in this country. It needs to be better shared out. I did some very basic sums today. Looking just at income tax, never mind corporate or capital gains etc. Figured that if everyone of working age were receiving the average salary, income tax and NI receipts would be about £3.2 billion (at most). Instead, they are over £140 billion. What does that tell you about how many people are earning far more than the national average wage? And those are the ones actually paying their tax. Imagine if they all took a little less money for themselves, paid their workers more, allowed them to stimulate the economy by you know, buying things. Going out, using services. Keeping pubs open (even with the duty on beer). Imagine if they paid a little more tax. Or, instead they provided free childcare for all employees, invested in public transport, sponsored local leisure and entertainment facilities in partnership with govt. (see I’m not totally anti big society) Imagine if companies paid graduate taxes in line with the number of the employees they had who they required to have a degree to get their job? It would stop it being used as a first line of recruitment sifting, and give some very competent non-graduates a chance.
Imagine if we didn’t bomb the shit out of everywhere at the drop of a hat. Imagine if MPs salaries were means tested. Or if they were required to pay them back if they earned more than twice that figure in the years following. See, there are plenty of alternatives. These cuts are ideological. Taking this approach to reducing the deficit is like those programmes where people pay off their mortgage in two years. Except they’re doing it with your money. Transfering the debt to the populace, be it in student loans, foreclosures on houses, increased pension payments which eat into your disposable income. Tomorrow I will lose about £100, a quarter of my monthly disposable income. The same I think I will lose if (when) the changes go through. But I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing it for people who have my day’s wage or less to see them through a week or a month.

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