Wednesday brought a massive Public Sector workers strike and I have real mixed feelings about this (including a lot of anger) particularly as i have a lot of friends who are teachers and civil servants. For those of you have been living in your shed without a TV for the last year, the country (and most of the world) is in pretty deep doo-doo financially and some pretty drastic cuts have got to be made to stop us from turning into a crap version of Greece * . Consequently the government have introduced some pretty unpopular cuts to services and changes in policy to try to reduce the deficit.
* At least Greece has good weather and beaches for when you're really depressed.
The most recent one has been a change in pensions for all Public Sector workers. Now the big point that everyone seems to be missing is that Public Sector Pensions (and the State Pension come to that) should have been reformed years ago to take into account the fact that people simply live longer than they used to. In 1926 when State Pensions were introduced the average life expectancy was 76 for men and 78 for women, in 2008 those figures were closer to 86 and 89 respectively. So there is an extra 10 years of pension cash to be found per person in the UK and yet until recently there had been almost no real move to increase the age at which these pensioners could start receiving their cash.
Anyone who can do simple adding and subtraction knows that this kind of commitment cannot be sustained indefinitely. Unfortunately the world financial crisis has elevated the pension timebomb profile and the government have no option but to address it and try to sort something out. They have already brought in plans to raise retirement age for the State Pension and now they are making changes to the Public Sector and it's not going down well.
I agree that the measures seem unfair and it would be a pretty poor argument if all I did was bleat on about the private sector being stamped on for years with dismal payrises, long hours and diminishing pensions to show for it, so I won't. Instead, let's think about a few other points.
1) No public sector worker will lose any money they have already invested in their pensions.
2) Public sector pensions will be 'defined benefit' ie: linked to pay and not on the amount saved or invested. So why is that bad?
3) Private sector workers must be responsible for the investment into their pensions, so why should they also be predominantly responsible for the investment into public sector workers pensions too?
Forgive me for being cynical but, generally, Governments tend to focus on keeping themselves in power for as long as possible and traditionally they like to make themselves pretty popular. So why are the Tories seemingly making themselves as unpopular as rabid dog at a teddy bears picnic? Could it be because they've explored all the popular options and realised they don't work? Could it be that there really are very few alternatives left (if any) and so drastic times call for drastic measures?
Even Husb who would sooner cut off his hands than be accused of being a Tory is shouting at the telly when some of the half-wits that the media choose to interview at times like this bang on about everything being 'not fair' and 'I'm entitled!' etc etc ad boredinium....[yes I did just make that word up].
The simple facts remain that we are not in a good place and we're all in it together so whilst you teachers are worried about your diminishing pension, so are we; you guys are worrying about future redundancies and job security and so are we. Times are rubbish but if we all start taking some responsibility then maybe we can get through it. Our parents and grandparents didn't exactly have it easy but they managed. They survived wars, rationing, general strikes and some positively dreadful fashion statements. They had to work out how to stretch a ridiculously small amount of food just that bit further and mend clothes rather than buy news ones yet most of us mainly have to make sure we don't overstretch our finances just in case something hits us – so, no new flat screen TVs, no amazing foreign holidays, making sure the kids have new shoes rather than £100 fashion trainers. You get the idea. I know I could easily knock a good £10 off my weekly food shop without trying too hard. And yes, I am aware that I am one of the relatively lucky ones and there are a lot of others who have to cut it down a lot more than that and have a lot less income to start with.
Incidentally, if anyone has any ideas that the Tories haven't thought of yet then please do share them. The only ones I can think of would probably be even more unpopular...
- Income tax rises
- VAT rises
- Council tax rises
- Fuel duty rises?
And before someone tries to bang on about Bankers and the mega rich and so on, yes ladies and gents, there will also be the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. It's the way of the world and always has been. Some will have inherited, some will have got lucky on the lottery, some will have got theirs from their golden boots or golden tonsils and some will just be thieving greedy bastards. It's not always necessarily fair , but in a lot of cases the 'haves' have built up their fortunes through hard work and sacrifice. Do you begrudge them their money too? You know as well as I do that if it were you (or me) who had the millions stashed away then you would enjoy it as much as those guys do.
We can't base all our decisions on what someone else does or someone else has. At some point in all our lives we have to just take some responsibility for ourselves and look out for those who can't look out for themselves. I don't have all the answers and if I did, would I want the Prime Minister's job? Would I heck.