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Back to Front - Their deal, not ours


Early May's news headlines reporting that an agreement on pensions retirement age had been reached must have at first taken workers by surprise. Certainly there had been no prior mention of negotiations taking place, let alone indications of a possible settlement with those unions involved in the successful day of action on 28 March.

Upon closer inspection it became apparent that the headlines only referred to an agreement reached between Brown and Blair – that age 68 should be the future retirement age and that the state pension should be linked to the National Average Earnings Index, rather than the lower Retail Price Index.

Leaving aside the minutiae of their sweatshop pension design, as embodied in the newly announced National Pension Savings Scheme (NPSS), the implication that two people elected by a tiny proportion of the population feel that they can decide when we retire is fanciful. Both Brown and Blair are out of touch with what is taking place in working class minds.

The way they have pushed through the EU protocol on raising retirement age through the NPSS, is not only a sign of this detachment but also an indication of their desperation in having to reduce our pension standard, in order to find money to service their horrendous Government debt, now that interest rates are on the rise.

In short, there is nothing to be gained in negotiations with these two loyal compradors to the EU. The real challenge is for us to make a decision about the type of pension structure we need for the future.

A number of opportunities exist, not only because of the size of the pension funds at our disposal and but also because of the technological advance that has occurred in the way manufacture can produce. This leap in production has taken place despite of and not because of capitalism and quite rightly workers' aspirations match that reality.

This is why so many workers wish to retire between 55 and 60 and to then engage in other work and activities. The fact is we are fully capable of reducing our working hours and retiring earlier, rather than the opposite as implied by the EU apologists. It is this reality that workers have grasped and why Blair and Brown are now out of touch.

Naturally pensions are part of a much wider perspective concerning this country's industrial future and while many of us have a clear perspective of the pension design we need, its shape can only be finalised as the struggle unfolds.

Of course, the choreography of Brown and Blair is all part of the announcement of the National Pension Savings Scheme (NPSS) in this month's forthcoming Green Paper. But a sign of the advance recently made in the understanding of pensions is that the NPSS has already been nicknamed Nats' Piss by workers in recognition of its befuddled 8% of salary contribution by the employers, compared with the 20% of salary or more required to fund a decent occupational final salary pension.

20% plus is our benchmark, Blair, and the next move is that we want control of our accumulated pension funds, so that we can invest here in order to develop manufacture and support our future pensions.