Hundreds likely to support strike in Down District

Hundreds likely to support strike in Down District

23 November 2011 - by DAVID TELFORD

HUNDREDS of public sector workers across the district will go on strike next Wednesday in protest at proposed changes to their pensions.

Picket lines will be manned outside the Downe and Downshire hospitals, government buildings and schools during the day of action which will include a trade union rally outside the St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick starting at noon.

A senior UNISON official has appealed to people to support public sector workers and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them during the rally.

Mrs. Marion Ritchie said the day of action represents the biggest trade union mobilisation in a generation involving 20 unions across the UK, including those representing council workers, NHS staff, teachers, civil servants, dinner ladies, bus drivers and firefighters.

The joint secretary of Unison’s Down Lisburn branch said changes to public sector pensions will result in workers paying more but receiving less when they finish work. Mrs. Ritchie said there is also major concern about government proposals to force those in the public sector to work longer.

“Today the battle is about the future of public sector pensions, but those with private pensions could be hit by the government in the future. That’s why it’s so important all workers take a stand and support next week’s day of action,” she declared. “Proposed pension reforms could result in public sector staff having to work until they are 70.”

Mrs. Ritchie said the government’s pension proposals come in the teeth of a hard-hitting economic recession.

“Every penny now counts, but yet public sector workers are being asked to pay increased pension contributions to offset the billions of pounds handed over to the bankers who got the country into this financial mess in the first place. This isn’t right.

“If teachers have to work until they are 68 or older, what opportunity will young graduates have of getting a teaching job? The pension proposals will literally result in public sector workers having to work until they .”

The trade union official explained that under the government proposals, pension contribution rates for all NHS employees earning over £15,000 a year will increase. She said while staff could still retire at 55 or 60, the value of their pensions in future could be reduced by almost 50 per cent.

Mrs. Ritchie continued: “Most public sector workers won’t retire on a fortune. Average pensions in local government are just £4,000, dropping to just £2,800 for women. In the NHS, the median pension for women is £3,500, that’s hardly gold-plated. These are key reasons why public sector workers should not be asked to pay more and receive less when they retire.

“Average pension pots for FTSE 100 directors are a whopping £3.91m. It’s time the government took a long, hard look at who is breaking our economy. It is the megarich who work in banking and financial institutions who got us into this mess, but it’s the low paid and hardworking families who are paying for the crisis.”