Friday, July 10, 2009

Forum 09: Defend Public Sector Pensions – Composite 2.

(This post is a little late – it’s the speech I made moving this composite supporting Public Sector Pensions on behalf of London region at the UNISON Labour Link forum the other weekend. It was to no real surprise passed unanimously)

"Chair, Forum...Firstly can I say that I am speaking as someone who had invested nearly 20% of his pay for over 20 years in Public Sector Pensions. For the last 16 years I have also been a member nominated representative on my scheme investment panel.

Forum, it is a strange, strange world we live in and I think it is only now that we fully understand and appreciate the job of work that was done in recent years by our Labour Link and UNISON to save our pensions. If there had not been a Labour Link, arguing with facts and passion to defend our pensions, we would not now have a guaranteed, safe, final salary pension scheme.

To be frank Forum, the battle to save our pensions is not over. The vultures are gathering. Let us be crystal clear – the Conservative Party even under cuddly Cameron will abolish our pensions. The Liberal Democrats even under Saint Vince Cable will abolish our pensions. They will abolish our pensions and replace them with insecure, unstable personal pensions with massive cuts to employer contributions.

Forum, our enemies, for that is what they are; our enemies’ attacks on our pensions are based on two things – Lies and Spite. The first of the many fibs are that public pensions are in some way “fat cat” pensions! Now all of us here, today, know that to be a lie. But what you need to do is let all your branch members, your friends and families, know that in reality the average public sector pension is under £5,000 per year. £100 per week is not a “fat cat” pension. Especially when compared to the millions paid to Royal Bank of Scotland “Fred the Shred” for actually losing our pension funds hundreds of millions of pounds of our money.

The 2nd lie that is being told by our enemies is that our pensions are in some way “unaffordable”. Forum, this is rubbish. This is untrue. We must do everything we can, at every opportunity to refute such porkies. Let me explain further.

I am a member of the local government scheme (LGPS) and was tupe transferred to a housing association who only offers a Group private pension to their other staff. My membership of the LGPS costs my employer 13.8%, repeat 13.8% of my salary. They even put that figure on my pay slip each month. Now if I was to transfer to the Group private pension scheme it would cost them 16% of my salary. Not only this they would have to pay more for life assurance to replace our “death in survive benefits”, and even more to pay for a Permanent Health Insurance policy (PHI) to replace our medical early retirement benefits.

Forum, this is the truth of the matter not the lies. The truth also is that Pensions are an expensive business. It does cost money to provide decent pensions. No matter what system is actually used. Remember also that the best public pensions cost less than 0.5% in running costs per year while personal pensions can swallow up to 40% of contributions in commissions, administration and fund managers profits.

So in fact our public pensions are affordable, cheap to run, secure and safe. So why do our enemies attack our pensions? The answer, Forum, can only be ideological spite. The traditional open Tory belief that Public=Bad; Private=Good; Collective= Bad; Markets= Good.Forum, there is 5 million of us in the public pensions, in local government, in heath and in utilities. Forum we desperately need to work for the re-election of a Labour government, for its faults, to save our pensions. There is clear red water on this issue. Please support this composite.

(this is an off the wall thought and not in the motion - If you are really serious about ending poverty for all in old age? – How about compelling all employees, employers and self employed to join their local council pension scheme? Contributions collected either direct from all or the Inland Revenue? Just a thought).


mrcentreleft said...

I don't know what your complaining about John.

When the greatly feared electoral Giants Respect sweep to power after at the next election we will have nothing to worry about.

After all, just think of all their massive achievements for the Working Class, like erm....yes erm...well there's.....

Oh sorry, maybe not.

Charlie Marks said...

On that last thought of yours, John - sounds like a good idea. You might have to add that people would be able to opt out if it's to get traction as a policy, mind.

Dave said...

Hi John,

the pensions issue in itself is one very good reason for public sector workers to vote Labour. Personally I find it a weird time for some on the Left to say they won't vote Labour. I also think we need more policies like a massive programme of Council House Building to shorten waiting lists. That one policy would undercut the BNP in a big way (certainly more effective than tossing eggs.)

But Gordon Brown has overseen the withdrawal from Iraq, the East Coast line is nationalised along with a number of Banks, we have Keynesian economics versus the Tories treating the economy like the household accounts. Instead of being loyal and prepared to argue were we need to, these guys are completely anti. We could be less than 12 months off a very nasty Tory Government. If it happens as I said on the Union futures website it will be everybody's fault but theirs.

Thanks for your support on the Union Futures website btw. When some of these guys run out of politics (which is almost immediate) it doesn't take them long to get personally abusive. Also I notice Charlie Marks is posting here and I'd like to say thanks for having the argument without the abuse.

Dave Draycott

John Gray said...

Hi mrcentreleft
Combining the words “Respect” and ....”achievements for working class” are an absolute oxymoron (as is the “Gorgeous one”)

Hi Charlie
Yes, but they would have opt out every year - like what is being proposed for personal accounts. We also need to turn all our PAYG public schemes into funded ones. Which I think they are doing gradually for the Fire Brigade?

Hi Dave
I couldn't agree more with your comments (whoops – I am now starting to sound like the usual Union Futures commentators).
If you are ever in the Smoke – get in touch for a beer and curry (with mrcentreleft if he is about!)

Charlie – you would be more than welcome to come out of your madrassa to join us!

Charlie Marks said...

I take your point about opt-outs, John. Thanks for the invite, we may meet face to face someday - or have we already? [cackles evilly]

Dave, I'm a big fan of John's blog so you'll see me commenting here, as politely as I can! Play the ball not the man, as they say.

Dave said...

Hi John,

sounds good. Look forward to meeting you and Charlie at some point.

Dave Draycott