1) It’s not about the value of the pensions or whether they are deserved.

There has been much argument over the size of local government pensions, which are argued to be lavish by the right and meagre by the left. While an important debate about living standards more generally, this is missing the immediate point, which was the fact that the Government is unilaterally changing the contracted terms and conditions of a group of workers when they have already signed a contract on those terms and conditions. This is dishonest and in bad faith. If the Local Government Pension Scheme needs to be put on a more sustainable footing in the long term, then acting to change, transparently and openly, conditions for new entrants to the scheme – while still rightly very controversial – would be more morally defensible. Update: Owen at The Third Estate has pulled together some figures that present a strong challenge to the ‘pensions are an unaffordable luxury’ rhetoric.

 

2) It’s not about public vs. private.

Given this unilateral action by the Government, bickering about how public sector workers are layabouts with gold-plated pensions and private sector workers are money-grabbing, mercenary pinstripers is playing into the hands of those who want to deflect attention from the real issue. A very large employer, in this case the collective public sector, has effectively breached a contract with a group of workers. No sane employee of any sort of organisation should be in favour of this: it sets a dangerous precedent and will drive down conditions across the board, because the average market rate for workers is reduced. To have a chance of stopping this happening, private sector workers need to be unionised – as they are for example at Unilever.

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