All Out

It is 37 years since I left school and went to work. In all that time I’ve been unemployed for about two months. In all that time I have spent 16 years in the private sector and 21 years in the public. In all that time I have never had a bad report, I have never been disciplined and I have never been on strike. Until today!

When you join the civil service you realise very quickly that the world and his wife think that you owe them something. Everyone is an expert on your job and everyone thinks that all you do all day is The Times crossword and drink tea. Nothing could be further from the truth . The vast majority of public employees are competent, hard-working and dedicated. Yes, it’s true that we get things wrong and when that happens it hits the headlines. We’re human and we can drop a few clangers. The redtops scream about the one in a thousand case that goes tits up, but are oddly silent about the other nine hundred and ninety-nine when we get it right!

You also learn, and particularly under a Tory government,  that you are neither liked nor respected by your employer. The demonising of public employees is not only condoned by the government, it is actively encouraged. “We pay your wages” as if we are expected to be pathetically grateful for crumbs from the table, to stand there wringing our caps while people who know less than sod all about what we do and how we do it berate us.

Well bollocks, with a capital B, to that. Show some respect for a change. And, in any case, we buy the stuff the private sector produces and thereby pay your wages – does that give us the right to tear up and rewrite your contract of employment because we’re a bit strapped for cash? Of course not.

WE are the ones who do the jobs that make YOUR life work

Yet WE are the ones who do the jobs that make YOUR life work. Imagine the country without us – no teacher to educate your kids, no binman  to take away your rubbish, no police to protect you, no fireman to rescue you, no midwife to help you in to this world and no gravedigger to bury you when you leave.

Before we go further I’d just like to squeeze some puss from the simmering boil of my anger!

We have a relatively recent example of the appalling way this government treats its employees. Earlier this month Brodie Clark was suspended as head of the UK Border Force. I make no comment on his conduct as I neither know nor care what he did. But whatever he did or did not do he was entitled to due process, which, under UKBA’s rules, should have been an investigation properly carried out to establish whether there was a case to answer and, if there was, the correct disciplinary procedure. He did not deserve to be traduced by The Home Secretary and effectively stabbed in the back by the Chief Executive.  Unprofessional and unforgiveable. (While we’re on that subject – two other senior officers were very publicly suspended. One has now returned to work as there was no case to answer, but I don’t notice the Agency making quite such a song and dance about that – or even, maybe, saying sorry?)

That whole festering pissbag of a saga just goes to show the contempt in which the government holds its own workforce. All the more galling considering all those proud words on the Home Office website about treating people fairly!

Then there has been the unedifying sight of civil service managers frantically trying to mitigate the effects of today’s strike.  This is all based on the idea that you can move people around as if they’re machines, expecting them to perform in unfamiliar roles for which they are not properly trained, but given only the bare minimum of mentoring (less than 30 minutes in some cases!).  Make no mistake about it. The emergency cover put in place for today’s strike is no substitute for properly trained and experienced staff. Imagine applying that in the NHS: “Your brain surgeon is on strike, Mr Maude, but we have found you a proctologist and shown him a couple of videos on Youtube, so he should be able to sort you out”.  (Actually, that’s probably a bad example. Given Francis’s recent performance it looks like both those parts of his anatomy are interchangeable.)

Of course, today’s strike is mainly about pensions.  We are told by this government that they “will protect the incomes of older people”, that “it isn’t fair on the taxpayers” and that “we can’t afford your pensions”.  Lies, Lies and Lies. So, let’s nail ‘em.

“We will protect the incomes of older people.” Crap!

France spends more than twice as much on pensions as the UK. The basic state pension in the UK is £102 a week, or £76 below the government’s own threshold of pensioner poverty. 3.5 million pensioners live in fuel poverty. The UK state pension is just 15% of average male earnings. ‘nuff said.

“It isn’t fair on taxpayers.” Crap!

I, TOO, AM A TAXPAYER! My pension is part of my employment package which my employer, the government, agreed to. Now that things are a bit tough they want to tear that up for no other real reason than malice.

The average public sector pension is £5,600 a year. The average pension for a retired private sector worker in an occupational pension scheme with a defined benefit is £5,860. OMG, mine looks so “gold-plated”! Of course, there is the fact that occupational pensions are quite common in the public sector, but becoming like hen’s teeth elsewhere. But this should not be a game of public versus private, although the government are quite happy that you see it as such. The fact that so many private sector employers make such piss-poor pension provision should not be a model for how you treat everyone. Unfortunately, it does inculcate the “race for the bottom” upon which Maude, Osbourne, Alexander and Scameron are now engaged.

“We can’t afford your pensions.” Crap!

The Hutton Report, commissioned by the government, shows that the costs of the existing pension scheme are gradually falling. Hutton rejected the claim that civil servants enjoy “gold-plated” pensions and he does not make the case that they are unaffordable.

Or there’s the deficit.

Remember when Local Government workers, Teachers, Lecturers, Policemen, Ambulance staff, Nurses, Midwives, Doctors and Firemen crashed the stock market, wiped out Banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No? Me neither. That was a private sector fuckup, but it’s being used as an excuse to erode the living standards of public servants. But only, it seems, SOME of them.

Pensions experts from Unite 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 and 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 workers’ 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 what Eric Pickles could retire on in 2015, and Andrew Lansley’s pension is almost ten times bigger than an average health worker who is accused by this government of having a ‘gold-plated pension’.

The final nail in the coffin of my tolerance came yesterday with George Osborne’s autumn statement. Not only, it seems, am I expected to work longer and pay more for a lower pension, but, on top of the current pay freeze (read “pay cut”) comes a 1% cap on pay rises (read a “pay cut”).

Well, what else could you expect from that stinking, fetid, intellectually incestuous cesspit of hypocrisy and mediocrity?[pullquote]I have had enough.[/pullquote]

I thought long and hard about striking today. It was not an easy decision for me to take, as I’ve always believed that if you don’t like the conditions you find another job.

But this time I’m not going to take it on the chin.

I have had enough.

This time they have gone too far.

They show no respect.

THAT is why, after 37 years, I am supporting a strike