Today’s public sector strike over pensions is a massive shame for everybody involved – the strikers themselves, the members of the public affected by disruption and the country as a whole.
It’s a shame because it’s so unnecessary. The unions and the Government have been talking about the issue for months and months without being able to settle it.
I’d urge both sides to get back round the table for truly meaningful talks.
I should declare a personal interest in the issue. I’ve been a public sector worker myself for 30 years as a psychiatric nurse in the NHS, and one of the reasons I decided to go into that area of work – apart from my interest in it as a caring profession – was that it promised a reasonable pension for my retirement.
I accept, of course, that times and circumstances change. People are living longer and it’s reasonable they should retire later as a result. I suspect, too, that most public sector workers would accept they should pay a bit more into their pensions.
But there are limits to how much longer and how much more if public sector pensions are to be fair to their members.
I think, too, most of us would argue that – after a two-year pay freeze — we’ve already been making a big contribution to cutting the country’s financial deficit.
And I know that most of us are fed up with reading about the so-called “gold plated” pensions we supposedly enjoy.
I appreciate the argument that private sector workers with inferior pensions may take the view that we should put up with what’s happening.
But surely the answer to bad private sector pensions is to make them better – not to drag public sector ones down to their level?