PCS Fringe: Next steps in the pension campaign
PCS held a Fringe event today about pensions, as part of the last day of TUC Congress.
The event was chaired by PCS president Fran Heathcote, who opened the meeting by welcoming Philip Evans, a DVLA striker.
Philip spoke about the DVLA campaign and made an appeal for continued donations to the strike fund. Messages of support for the DVLA strikers were received during the meeting from various branches and unions.
The next speaker was Rachel Hopkins MP. She voiced her support for civil servants who she said had been “on the frontline” during the pandemic, and who were suffering a race to the bottom, where the government is “driving down decent conditions” and workers were having to “pay more, work longer under increased pressure and ultimately get less in the long run.” She urged people to email their MPs about the issue of pensions, explaining the impact it was having.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka started his address by stating “The question of pay and pensions are the two most critical issues that make up people's living standards; they're intrinsically linked. We know that for many people pay is their top concern. But we also know that we have a cohort of members who really worry about their pensions either because they're about to access them, or because they can see the effects of the government’s changes currently taking place.”
Mark told the meeting that this morning a motion was passed at TUC Congress that agreed to campaign for a four-day week. He pointed out that “the question of when you retire is also key to work life balance…so we call for a reduction in the state pension age.”
He said, “We do not have gold plated pensions. Our pensions are based on a lifetime of earnings that in almost all circumstances compare less well to similar jobs in the private sector. So our pensions are bound to be lower because they are based on a lower average.”
Mark explained how, following the valuation of the civil service pension scheme, the average member is owed over £1000 in overpaid pension contributions. He said: “The best way to fight for a reduction in state pension age, fairness on pensions and fairness in pay is to make common cause with all public sector unions which are all facing the same problem…..we could do it in 2011 and we can do it again now.”
He told the meeting that he has already spoken to the leaders of some unions and will meet more next week. He encouraged everyone at the meeting to work to increase participation among members, attend local trades councils and make contact with reps from other unions, to “start making contact on the ground, making common cause.”