Extract of the speech given by John McInally, PCS civil service union vice-president, at the Bristol strike rally on 30 November:
Inevery town and city throughout the country, millions of workers are sending a message to the coalition government – we will not allow you to steal our hard-earned pension rights.
The austerity programme is a disaster. It means unemployment of 2.6 million. It means youth unemployment over one million. It means pay freezes while the richest 1% stuff their bank accounts with obscene, unearned wealth.
It means the biggest transfer of wealth and power in history through a privatisation programme which signals the end of free education and health.
And, let’s be clear, the problem is not that they are cutting ‘too fast’ and ‘too deep’ – the problem is they are cutting at all.
There can be no excuse for this attack on pensions – public sector pensions are affordable. They are sustainable. And, they are falling in cost.
Pensions are only deferred wages. The average civil service pension, if you take away the tiny percentage of high earners, is only £80 a week – hardly a fortune.
The truth is this government wants us to endure a lifetime of low pay followed by an impoverished old age. They have sought to divide public sector workers from private sector workers. However, the real division in society is between the haves and the have-nots.
Our slogan is “fair pensions for all”. When rich Tory ministers talk about “fairness” between private and public sector pensions what they mean is a race to the bottom – they want to impose on us the worst pension provision they can get away with.
That is why we must stand together to defeat this attack. But they couldn’t get away with this if the Labour Party were not committed to protecting corporate interests above those of the vast majority in this country.
If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority, then it is time we do so ourselves.
We will use all campaigning methods to defeat these attacks. We will oppose them in the courts, in our workplaces, in our communities too. I urge everyone not only to support your trade union but also the anti-cuts alliance in your own town or city. If there isn’t one – then set one up.
We give our solidarity and full support to the pensioners’ alliances, the students and the school students and the Occupy movement.
After 30 November’s brilliant show of strength and solidarity we must prepare for further action if the government does not concede. PCS believes that the TUC must announce at its upcoming meeting that – as an absolute minimum – we organise another national day of action.
That means escalation by getting even more unions on board, including private sector workers fighting for their pension rights too.
All targeted, selective or rolling action taken by individual unions must be coordinated for maximum impact.
But the way to win is to demonstrate our power as we have done so today.
National coordinated industrial action is the key to defeating the attack on pensions and the cuts themselves.