first thoughts - pensions puzzle


ONE-AND-A-HALF MILLION public service workers must be scratching their heads at the government's sudden about-face over so-called pension reform (see related news article), leading to the cancellation of the planned 23 March national strike.

And well they might. It looks for all the world as if the whole scenario was planned to give the false impression, in the run-up to a May general election, that trade union leaders have the "ear" of government and that government actually listens to them.

Even the origin of the government's proposal three days before Christmas to extend retirement ages is mired in mystery. No one will accept responsibility for it, blaming "poor communication". Up steps the bold TUC with a campaigning day on 18 February, and some unions ballot — not too many, certainly not the GMBATU (What? Consult members?), nor the teaching unions, as the strike had been set (deliberately?) for the school holidays.

Now the government turns round, says sorry, we never meant it like that. The union "generals" trumpet a victory, and talk of meaningful negotiations — which, inevitably, will stretch past the general election, whenever it is held. Yet both government and TUC know the negotiations are a farce as long as their beloved European Union dictates policy — because the EU's Occupational Pension Scheme Directive of 2002 insists that the British public service pension schemes must be scrapped.

So do they really think we are just there to be marched halfway up and down again? Workers must prove them wrong.