Tens of thousands join protests against government policies

By staff writers
1 Dec 2011

Two-thirds of schools and thousands of agencies shut down yesterday as over 2 million workers joined 'the biggest strike in a generation', according to organisers.

The public sector protest, accompanied by hundreds of rallies against cuts and 'pension robbery', also saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets across Britain to oppose the coalition government's austerity-based policies.

Almost all schools in Scotland closed. In Northern Ireland, no bus or train services operated. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimated that 30,000 protesters had turned out in Birmingham and some 25,000 in London.

Meanwhile, a new paper from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts that the gap between CPI and RPI inflation will increase to 1.4 per cent in future - cutting the value of public and private sector pensions in payment even more than previously forecast.

The government has changed the way that it uprates public sector pensions in payment from the RPI measure of inflation to the CPI measure. This has been followed by many private sector pension schemes.

In the past the difference between the two measures had been around 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent but the OBR say that in future it will be 1.4 per cent.

The OBR paper says: "Further analysis in this paper suggests that a plausible range for the long-run difference between RPI and CPI inflation is around 1.3 to 1.5 percentage points. For the basis of our November 2011 EFO, we assume that the difference between RPI and CPI inflation is around 1.4 percentage points in the long run."

The switch to CPI will reduce the value of all public and some private sector pensions in payment by around 1.4 per cent a year. Over 15 years this will reduce the pensions paid by 17.4 per cent, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber commented: "The switch to CPI inflation is a government attack on public sector pensions. And while they keep trying to divide public and private workers, private sector pensioners are also seeing their pensions cut by this change."

He declared: "This stealth cut to pensions blows another huge hole in the government's false claims that pensions are staying the same for public sector workers. It's now pay more, work longer and get even less."

The trade union leader was also scathing about multi-millionaire Chancellor George Osborne's Autum Statement to the House of Commons this week.

He said: "None of the Chancellor's post-election assumptions have turned out to be true. Growth has stalled, the Eurozone has crashed, the structural deficit is bigger than previously thought and unemployment continues to rise as the private sector fails to take up the public sector slack.

"The Chancellor's stubborn determination to stick to his plan A despite the evidence that it is not working and won't work in the future, means that we are locked into permanent austerity.

"Of course there were some welcome moves in the statement as the Chancellor tries to reinvent infrastructure spending, youth employment and regional assistance programmes. But the catch is that they are being paid for by freezing tax credits, holding back public sector pay and increasing public sector job losses to 710,000 by 2017. Those with the broadest backs who caused the crash have escaped once again.

"Cutting employment rights will not create a single extra job, but they will make employees feel more insecure and even less likely to spend.

"His refusal to back a Robin Hood tax and make nurses pay instead speaks volumes about his values. Public servants are no longer being asked to make a temporary sacrifice, but accept a permanent deep cut in their living standards that will add up to over 16 per cent by 2015 when you include pay and pension contributions.

"It is no wonder that the government has alienated its entire workforce who are coming together in unprecedented unity tomorrow to take a stand against such unfair treatment," said Mr Barber.

Also on Ekklesia: 'How Osborne isn't facing economic reality', by Jonathan Bartley - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/15815

[Ekk/3]

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