On 22 November, the Unite union published a ‘dossier of hypocrisy’, exposing the pensions of cabinet ministers at the heart of the coalition’s attack on public sector workers. This is timely because, any day now, the right-wing press is expected to blast away at the pensions earned by leading trade union general secretaries, in an effort to discredit the mounting support for strike action on 30 November.
Unite’s pensions experts have examined the pensions of Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg; Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne; Business Secretary, Vince Cable; Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude; Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander; Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles; and Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley. It compared them to typical public sector workers who face a massive attack on their pensions. The calculations are based on ministers’ pension pots if they were to retire at the end of the current term of office in 2015.
George Osborne, the architect of the government’s austerity programme, would only have to work a year and a half to earn a typical public sector worker’s pension of £5,600 in retirement.
Francis Maude and Danny Alexander are leading negotiations with the unions on pensions. A typical public sector worker would have to work three working lifetimes to earn Francis Maude’s pension and two working lifetimes to earn young Danny Alexander’s.
A local government worker would have to work a staggering 124 years to get a pension equal to that on which Eric Pickles could retire in 2015, and Andrew Lansley can expect almost ten times more than what an average health worker will get from his or her ‘gold-plated’ pension.
Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey said, ‘A typical public sector worker would have to work almost three lifetimes to get a pension like some of these ministers who are attacking our public services. And it doesn’t include all the other lucrative business arrangements and inherited wealth many of them enjoy. Unite supports good pensions for all workers, including MPs: what we don’t support is a cabinet of millionaires attacking the very modest pensions of the men and women who care for our sick, teach our children and keep our streets safe.
‘It’s another example of how out of touch the government is. Ministers, who can retire on tens of thousands a year, are slashing the pensions of workers who stand to get a few thousand a year and then have the nerve to call them “gold-plated”.
‘The government must stop trying to turn people against their neighbours, friends and colleagues who work in the public sector. Start acting responsibly by getting back round the negotiating table to talk seriously about a fair deal for public sector workers.’
According to a survey released yesterday by the polling company Survation, fewer than one in 10 people believe public-sector pensions really are ‘gold-plated’. The poll of more than 1,000 adults was commissioned by Unite before next week’s strike by public-sector workers. It showed that unions were three times more trusted than the Government for providing accurate information on the affordability of public sector pensions.
Only eight per cent of those questioned said they would regard a pension of £6,000 a year – the average for the public sector – ‘as gold-plated’.
Almost nine out of ten people said politicians and company bosses were not making enough sacrifices in the current difficult economic times, while most believed nurses, teachers and refuse collectors were doing enough.