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Busting the public sector pensions myths!
The Con-Dem ministers who attack the unions for taking strike action in defence of public sector pensions on 30 June are liars. They will say anything to try and divide the working class.
Here Sean Figg shows how some combine lies with manipulation of the "debate" onto false choices and myths that they themselves have created.
1. Public sector pensions are "too generous"
Surely this can only be answered by considering whether the pension does its job: provides a decent standard of living for a retired worker. On this measure no public sector pension is "too generous". The average pension for ordinary civil servants is just £4,200 a year. The average pension in the education sector is £10,000 a year.
The definition of poverty according to the government is living on less than 60% of the median income (£15,568 a year in 2010). No public sector pension gets close to this level.
2. Public sector pensions are "unfair" to workers in the private sector
True, 'Fred the Shred' Goodwin of bank collapse fame, for example, got £16 million. But most private sector workers get a raw deal on pensions. This is because the Tories already helped big business to decimate their pensions. Now they present the private sector as typical of some "natural" pension level, rather than a conscious pro-big business policy choice 20 years ago.
The Con-Dems will even argue that the tax paid by private sector workers is directly funding public sector pensions. But no government ear-marks funds in this way. Again, it is a pro-big business choice by the Con-Dems to cut taxes on bankers and the super-rich.
A successful campaign to defend public sector pensions must simultaneously be the launch point for a campaign to win back the pension rights of private sector workers. We're not falling for the divide and rule myth.
3. The country can no longer afford "gold-plated" public sector pensions
Arguments about the "national interest" include the following variants: "the public sector is too big", "the public debt is too high", "we're living too long" etc, etc. In other words, we should all take a hit for "the good of the country".
But currently public sector pensions are 1.9% of GDP. According to Lord Hutton's report this proportion will fall to 1.4% by 2060 without making a single change! The teachers' pension pot is self-funding, requiring no money from elsewhere.
The claim that we are living longer is another cover-up for Con-Dem policy choices. There is huge wealth in society that could fund earlier retirement on a living pension for all workers in the public and private sectors. The problem is that it is all locked away with the super-rich. The richest 1,000 people in Britain have £395 billion between them.
Socialist policies that took such vast wealth into democratic public ownership and spent it to the benefit of all would mean we could live into our hundreds without worrying about the "affordibility" of pensions.
4. "We're all in this together"
We have arrived at the big lie that explains the half-truths and obfuscations of the other pitiful arguments: "we are all in this together".
The attack on public sector pensions is part of a broader effort to make the working class pay for the crisis of capitalism. In the biggest rip-off in history the politicians are trying to let the banks and financial markets get away without contributing a penny to fix the economy they wrecked. Instead they think they can make the working class pay.
But of course they can't say that to us plainly and that explains the Houdini style contortions in the "debate" on public sector pensions...
In The Socialist 22 June 2011:
Socialist Party feature
Building for 30th June
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and comments
Fighting the cuts