British trade unions, whose membership is now largely confined to the rapidly growing public sector, have launched a campaign against efforts by the New Labour Government to cut defined benefit pensions paid to public sector workers.
The Trade Union Congress’s Public Service Liaison Group (PSLG) has chosen Friday 18 February as a nationwide “day of campaigning” for union members to voice their concerns at the proposed changes.
Although the changes to the various pensions schemes vary from sector to sector, the unions say they are united in their desire to preserve generous defined benefit pensions for workers across the public services. Of particular concern, they say, is the Government’s determination to increase the retirement age for all public sector workers.
When the PSLG last met before Christmas, the unions were keen for an urgent meeting to take place with senior Government ministers. It did not take place. But TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber is adamant. “This issue is not going to go away,” he says. “Unions and their members are very angry at the changes the Government is proposing. There is enormous concern at the impact these proposals will have upon the lives of millions of public sector workers. We are determined to keep up the pressure on the Government.”
In just over five weeks’ time, on 18 February, the TUC is to co-ordinate a campaigning day of activities so that unions can argue the case to protect public sector pensions in their local and regional media, organise local rallies and other campaign events, and put pressure on local constituency MPs. To coincide with the campaign day, the TUC is also to seek a meeting with David Miliband, the Cabinet Office Minister with responsibility for the Public Services Forum.