N30 march and rally in OldhamTagged as: social_struggles
Oldham saw a 1,000 strong march and rally in the town centre by public sector strikers, the biggest, if not the only, demonstration the town has seen for a decade.
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Oldham is a medium-sized town where there is very little political activism, so for it to muster a demonstration is a significant event. The demo was twice as big as the organisers expected, which shows how much strength of feeling there is on the pensions issue. I counted six different public service and education unions represented on the march. It did a short circuit twice round the commercial district of the town centre and ended with a rally outside the market hall.
There were at least six speakers, from different unions. All expressed indignation, if not outrage, that they were being expected to take a pension cut by millionnaire government ministers. Some saw an injustice particularly because the government had no problem finding public money to bail out the bankers. But all of the speeches were confined to the pensions issue, I did not hear anybody link this to public sector cuts in general, nor anybody using the language of class warfare, or offering to escalate the strike. So much for the strikers being "militants spoiling for a fight"! The talk was about fairness and honouring employment contracts, nothing more subversive.
Unison members were handing out a leaflet that aims to nail the three main lies the government is putting about on pensions. The first is that they have a concern for the welfare of pensioners. In fact, the state retirement pension has steadily decreased on value over the past thirty years, as have all other welfare state benefits. None have kept pace with inflation. Since this is so, people need to supplement their state pension. Second, public sector pensions are not a unfair drain on other taxpayers. Workers contribute towards their own pensions, so they are subsidising themselves and other workers in retirement. What about the billions of pounds spent on (means-tested) pension credit, is that also an unfair drain on taxpayers? Lastly, the lie that public sector pensions are unaffordable has already been disproved by the National Audit Office, which found that the cost of pensions will shortly reduce as a proportion of GDP, and will eventually be 3 per cent.
I myself do not have a pension and I am unlikely to ever have one. I support the people who are fighting to protect theirs. I don't 'do' envy and no Tory politicians are going to induce me to. There is no case for demanding that workers living standards should be dragged down, but rather. people working in all sectors should be accorded a dignified retirement.