caz963: (Grammar)
[personal profile] caz963
An entry by someone on my f-list reminded me that I wanted to post something about the public sector workers' strike that's taking place on Wednesday this week.

If someone had said to me, twenty years ago that I'd actually be in a union, I'd have laughed. If they'd gone on to tell me that not only would I belong to a union but that I'd also vote in favour of a strike, I'd have been trying to find them a padded cell!

But... both of those things have indeed come to pass. Technically speaking though, I won't be on strike on Wednesday as I'm off sick, but had I not been, then I'd definitely have withdrawn my labour for the day. I - like most of the other people who will be striking - can't really afford it. But better to lose a day's pay than to lose thousands of pounds in our pensions in later life.

I can only really speak from the teachers' perspective, as I'm not familiar with the terms and conditions under which other public sector workers are employed. But I'm continually pissed off with hearing someone on the news spouting that public sector workers get nice fat pensions - £50k p.a!! - and that we're not as badly paid as people in the private sector. Okay, so it may be true that people in the private sector have taken larger pay cuts than in punlic services. But it seems to me that the majority of public servants were less well paid than their private sector equivalents - and also that the majoriy of unskilled public sector jobs are pretty badly paid. Mind you, even nurses, who are highly skilled, are badly paid!

As for me. Well, I've just moved up the teacher's pay scale to M6, which is the highest point on the mainscale. Anyone can look up the payscales, so I'll tell you that I earn around £31,500. Not bad money at all, although anyone who reads this LJ regularly will probably (I hope!) agree with me that it's not nearly enough for all the crap I have to put up with!! But it's taken me six years (including my training year) to reach this point, and unless I successfully apply to cross the threshold onto the Upper Pay Scale, or acquire any extra responsibilities, I won't get any more pay increases, other than inflationary ones, assuming we ever see the like of them again.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to plead poverty and I know there are people out there who are a lot less well off than I am. I'm just trying to speak about my own situation and reasons for supporting this strike.

A few weeks ago, I met with a financial consultant to see if I could "tidy up" my current pension arrangements. Before I had the kids, I worked in the music business which was a pretty "mobile" industry, and I moved around a lot and paid into several different pension schemes along the way. Now, obviously, as I've only been teaching for seven years, my teacher's pension entitlement is going to be a lot less than someone who entered the profession in their twenties. But going on the figures this bloke worked out for me, I reckon that if I'd become a teacher in my twenties and continue teaching until 66 - or later - I could end up with a pension of about £10-11k pa. So I have no idea where the meeja is getting this ridiculous figure of £50k from! They're probably just using figures for the highest earners to frighten everyone - or just making it up like they usually do.

So I'm not in line for a fat pension by any means. And it's important to realise that many teachers retire in their fifties (probably on reduced pensions) - and now I know why. It's a mentally and physically exhausting job - not many of us sit behind a desk all day (chance would be a fine thing!) - and even if the government wasn't going to be raising the state pension age to 66 (and maybe even 67 by the time I reach retirement age) you're asking people in their sixties to keep up with kids young enough to be their grandchildren and great-grandchildren all day, five days a week. It's tiring enough when they're your own grandkids and you can hand them back after a couple of hours!

I saw a blog post last week which suggested that the average life-expectancy of a teacher after they reach 65 is about 3 weeks! I fervently hope that was a joke. Although it does bear out something the financial guy said to me about the longevity - or lack thereof - of teachers.

What it comes down to, is that the government wants me to work for longer, to increase my pension contributions by 3%, so I'll be paying in 8% of my salary - and to get back less at the end of it.

And to add insult to injury, I heard news reports today saying that this new infrastructure initiative that George Osborne is going to announce tomorrow will be part funded by the savings made on public pensions. It was on Radio 4 - so it must be true!

The rest of the funding is apparently coming from China. Forget the government turning a blind eye to the Human Rights abuses we all know go on over there - I reckon they'll need a blindfold, but have no idea where they'll find one big enough.

Right, that's me done on the soap-box. Time for tea.

Date: 2011-11-29 05:06 am (UTC)
develish1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] develish1
I may not be in the public sector myself, but I completely support the action being taken by those who are.

My father spent his entire working life in the public sector, after doing two years in the army straight out of school. Despite that, and the fact my mother always worked too, now that he's retired, my mother still holds down a part time job in a shop because his pension is inadequate.

They certainly don't live beyond their means either, so I know the figures being bandied around are, in many cases, complete bull.

Date: 2011-11-29 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caz963.livejournal.com
I get the impression that people like you are in a minority, though :( We're being demonised continually by not only the government, but the opposition, too. Who'd have thought we'd see the day when a Labour leader would only "not condemn" the strike action and not come out and actually support it. And I say that as someone who's never voted Labour in her life!

The teachers are almost always singled out for the most vitriol as it seems we're responsible for most of the country's ills. But we have no other options open to us. I'd certainly be in favour of a strict work-to-rule if there was some sort of moratorium on unfinished/unattempted tasks at the end of it. In fact, from 1st December members of the NASUWT (which include me) are supposed to be taking Action short of strike action (http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/consum/groups/public/@press/documents/nas_download/nasuwt_008627.pdf), but that's not quite the same thing.

Date: 2011-11-29 10:47 pm (UTC)
develish1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] develish1
I'd like to think the majority aren't really stupid enough to believe all the exaggerations, and outright lies, I'm seeing in the news, but sadly far too many of them are these days it seems.

A work to rule would shake things though. if all public sector staff started working to rule the bloody country would grind to a halt, lol.

Date: 2011-11-29 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anatolealice.livejournal.com
Who'd have thought we'd see the day when a Labour leader would only "not condemn" the strike action and not come out and actually support it. And I say that as someone who's never voted Labour in her life!

Wow. I reckon. Obviously our Labor party (yeah, we spell it that way in that context, I don't know why) is not your Labour party, but they are similar surely. My neighbourhood was the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party and it's super pro union and I know that's influenced me before I was able to make decisions for myself but I think of all the unions have achieved for people over the last century and I think, how can we not support the rights of people to stand up en mass to say, hey, this isn't right? Under our previous government there was a real push to break up collective bargaining and it was all 'rah rah rah you'll be better bargaining individually with your employer' and I just think, who are they trying to kid? An individual has no power, not unless they are in the very small minority who can write their own ticket. Everyone else needs to stick together. I remember when I was living in the UK and there was a postal strike and everyone was super grumpy (me too) and the this postie was interviewed and he said he was really sorry about how inconvenient it was but he made something like 15K per year and could we maybe think about what that was like, trying to raise a family. Won me over in a second. Wages in the UK for 'most' people doing the sorts of ordinary jobs that have to be done are shit. Then you have this huuuuuge gap and there are plenty of Londoners making phenomenal amounts of money. I was never so aware of the gap between rich and poor as when I was trying to live in London on 18K. What you're on now is pretty decent compared to lots of jobs (though not if you look at what's actually involved!) but if you compare it to salaries elsewhere, it's way lower. There's no point comparing costs in pounds to aussie dollars since you're paying for things in pounds, but still, when you convert prices things aren't that much different (food is cheaper in the UK, transport more expensive, for example). You are by no means paid too much! I just googled this, for comparison: http://sydney.edu.au/education_social_work/future_students/careers/teacher_salaries.shtml

Date: 2011-11-29 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] topaz-eyes.livejournal.com
I am 100% behind your union's decision to strike. I despise how unions are demonized.

My dad's workplace was unionized, and R is in a public servants' union in Canada, so yeah, I am 100% pro-union. R will tell you that the only perk of working in public service is the freaking public service pension, and it will be modest, the equivalent of about £25k pa. (He pays in about 5% of his gross salary to the Canada Pension Plan which is for everyone, and the gov't matches his contribution. He then contributes to the public service superannuation on top of that.) The gilded pensions are only for the senior public servants in management.

The idea that public servants are well paid is bogus, too. R's been on courses with peers working in the private sector--they earn 50-100% more than he does for the equivalent job. Plus benefits! Unions are the only barrier between a decent wage for public servants and the minimum wage the rest of the world seems to want to impose on them. It's stupid--non-pensioned workers should be demanding to raise the standards for everyone, not lower them.

Funding infrastructure initiatives by savings made on public pensions is a Bad Idea and I hope Britons will kick George Osborne to the curb for that. Because once the pension money's gone, it's gone. This is what decimated private company pensions in the US and Canada--companies used the pension savings to invest, lost the money in the crashes, then went under. There's no way the gov't will repay the pension debt, either.

Sorry, I seem to have ranted on a soap box here. Tl;dr: I hope your unions give the government hell.

Date: 2011-11-29 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caz963.livejournal.com
I freely admit that, for the area in which I live, the salary I earn is pretty good. Outside London or major towns I reckon it's hard to earn good money, so I can't really complain about that. (Although I remembered last night that when I left the private sector twelve years ago I was earning 28k!)

Undoubtedly there are public sector employees who are very well paid indeed who will also be subject to the changes in pension payments. But they're more able to afford it than I am, and much more able to afford it than the many thousands of public sector workers who are very poorly paid. It seems to me that nobody on the news reports is standing up and saying that Mrs Bloggs, a care-worker is on not much more than minimum wage and that her pension isn't worth a lot. No, the govt has to resort to scaremongering and trots out stupid numbers. It's the same as whenever there's been a disupte about teacher's rates of pay. Until fairly recently, the TDA (which is the overall body responsible for teacher training in the UK) was running TV ads that said "earn 35K as a teacher". And then that was the figure trotted out by the media when there was a dispute later on. As you can see, I don't earn 35k, and the only way I will earn it is by either of the two methods I mentioned in my post. But the people who point out those errors are either shouted down or given minimal exposure.

I've never been a "leftie"; in fact, my parents have always been Conservative voters, and my leanings are probably slightly left-of-centre (which still puts me to the left of most of the Labour Party these days!) - but I'm getting really pissed off with the amount of inaccuracy and blatant union-bashing that's going on in the media right now.

They should shut up and then come and do my job for a week and THEN tell me that I earn too much, get too many holidays and too big a pension!

Date: 2011-11-29 06:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] smtfhw.livejournal.com
I'm not a public sector worker (thank the gods given what's being done to them) and frankly wouldn't get out of bed for the average civil servant's take home pay. How do I know that? Lynne is a civil servant and after 20 years she's still only on £21,000 or thereabouts and the thing that has kept her working there for 20+ years is the fact that she'd get a reasonable pension (and I say reasonable - not good). Two thirds of the household income comes from me, so that gives you an idea.

I'm right behind this strike (and would love to be right behind the current Chancellor with a blunt instrument in my hands).

Date: 2011-11-29 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caz963.livejournal.com
There are a lot of teachers for whom getting a decent pension was one of the attractions of the job. (I can't say I'm one of those specifically, because that wasn't a factor in my decision, but that said, I did know there was a good scheme).

For some - especially those who've left more lucrative jobs in the private sector - the pension makes up for the differential in income.

And basically, what they're trying to do is to change our conditions of employment en masse.

I heard on the news that if we're lucky, we might get a 1% pay rise from 2013 when the current two year freeze ends. And then a couple of years later the government wants me to put an extra 3% into my pension.

The retail sector complains that people aren't spending; the building sector is in trouble because nobody is buying houses, which has a knock-on effect elsewhere. Now, I wonder why that could be? I'm not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it's his job to be able to work out things like this, so perhaps someone should ask him!

Date: 2011-11-29 09:33 pm (UTC)
hooloovoo_42: (Toby 2 fingers)
From: [personal profile] hooloovoo_42
I'm not in the union, so I won't be striking tomorrow. I earn less than 80% of what I was earning 10 years ago when I worked in the private sector. I'm at the top of my pay band and in the last 4 years, I've had what adds up to a 1% pay rise after you take into account the increase in pension contributions that came in 3 years ago. Now I hear that if I do get a pay rise next year, it will be another 1%.

I worked for a private sector company for 12.5 years and even if I stay with my current employer until I retire, the 29 years of service I will have amassed with them at that point won't get me a pension anything like the money I will get from that private pension scheme.

I hear pieces on the news where they interview people in the street who say "I work in the private sector and can't afford to contribute to a pension". Well, if my pension contributions go up by another £50/month, which is what the proposal will mean, I will have to cut back a lot more on what I spend elsewhere. I have always paid into my pension because it means that I will just about be able to cope when I retire. But if my taxes are going to go up to pay for people who don't contribute to their own pension funds, I'm going to be pretty pissed off that I scrimped to make the contributions and they are getting benefits. It's not the fault of public workers that private companies screwed their pension schemes and took payment holidays in the 90s, or blew the pension fund like Maxwell did. Anyone who wants my pension is welcome to swap jobs with me.

Of course, after today's announcement of yet another year before I get to retire, I doubt whether I'll get there anyway!

Date: 2011-11-29 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caz963.livejournal.com
I had something through the post the other day from one of my pension companies which talked about the changes in the retirement age and indicated that anyone born after 1960 will have to work until 66 and that it will be raised again to 67 in x years, although the government are planning to bring it forward. I'll be 60 in 2023, so I won't reach retirement age until 67 after today's announcement.

That said though, there's no way I can continue to do this job into my sixties - not as the job is now.

I get pissed off when we hear/read articles about how people aren't saving enough for their old age, but nobody thinks to point out that they can't afford it. And then you realise that if you do the sensible thing and put money aside, you'll get shafted in other ways.

I don't want my kids to have to fund my retirement - that's what I'm supposed to be doing by paying into a pension scheme and with my NI contributions. I don't want or expect other people to fund it either - but by that token, I don't expect to have to fund other people's retirements.

The other thing of course, is that most people - myself included - know very little about how a pension actually works, so the govt think they can get away with anything.

Date: 2011-11-29 10:55 pm (UTC)
hooloovoo_42: (Buggered)
From: [personal profile] hooloovoo_42
so the govt think they can get away with anything

Points to icon!

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