So comrades come rally

Today millions of public sector workers are striking over pensions.

In the borough where I used to work every school bar one is closing completely or has part closures. These include faith school, academies and special schools. I know some of these head teachers would ensure their schools remained open through snow or illness and would rather snog Michael Gove than close their schools. Today however the schools are closed and the teachers striking over pension changes.

Today public sector workers are marching, rallying and picketing. Many of them will have never been on strike before but this time it feels necessary. Like those head teacher in my ex borough they want to demonstrate their anger and dissatisfaction at the pension changes. It’s indisputable that public sector pensions have to change but the changes are going too far too fast. We Love Local Government explains this far better than I.

Apart from changes to pensions I think the public sector also just wants to make its voice heard. Since the coalition government came into power they’ve constantly criticised the public sector and have branded them feckless and lazy;  greedy pension grabbers that shirk the real world of hard work for a cushy time being babysat by the state.

The government response to this day of action has been one of that teacher who says, ‘you’ve let yourself down, you’ve let the government down but most of all you’ve let the public down.’ If I were them I’d be a bit worried at the anger that has provoked such a massive walk out rather than threatening to withdraw their offer over reforms. But I guess that’s why I’m not in politics. My ego is sadly just not vast enough.

I’ve mentioned before that when I went into the public sector it wasn’t for the pensions or the perks or even the holidays. I wanted to be a teacher and make a difference in children’s lives. I felt I could best do this in the state sector.  As a new teacher of 22 I didn’t care about a pension because it felt like retirement was a million years away (it still is now that the age of retirement is getting higher and higher) and took a big chunk of my wage each month that might be better spent on having fun.

But now after a whole career spent in the public sector I’ve been left high and dry. I don’t pay into a government pension any more because that jo has gone and I have no job to strike from today. But the public sector is where my heart lies so I’m with everyone who strikes today. Good luck and maybe just maybe the government will listen for once.

‘Arise, ye workers from your slumber,
Arise, ye prisoners of want.
For reason in revolt now thunders,
and at last ends the age of cant!
Away with all your superstitions,
Servile masses, arise, arise!
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition,
And spurn the dust to win the prize!
So comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale,
Unites the human race.’

The Internacionale

Pay checked

More than 9,000 public-sector workers earn more than the prime minister, according to a new analysis of public-sector pay.

Ah, the prime minister’s pay, that great British benchmark. Up there alongside ‘as big as x football pitches,’ ‘the size of Wales,’ and ‘as big as golf balls.’

My local newspaper was indignant at the levels of pay of the various local authority chief executives and so it should be. The head of Wandsworth in London earns a salary of £299,925 including bonuses of £54,000. Many other chief executives are not far behind.

Fair enough for a demanding job in difficult times but it transpires than many of these CEOs have been awarded massive pay rises in the past year, just as many posts are being made redundant and costs are being cut to the bone. There has been a lot of whingeing from them about pensions and bonuses being added in to these salary figures and cost of living and take home pay being reduced but it’s a bitter pill to swallow for the rest of us.

In hard times we look to our leaders and we want them to support us and stand up for us- the drones that don’t receive prime minister-busting salaries. And as for bonuses…obviously we’re not talking banker bonuses here in the public sector but perhaps naively I didn’t realise that council leaders even got bonuses. When you work for the council you accept that you are duty bound to give council taxpayers best value for money and not grab it for yourself. The biggest bonus I got last year was a couple of biscuits left over from a training meeting. And no, don’t worry, tax-payers, we don’t supply tea and biscuits at training any more.

If I earn some consultancy money for the council then it goes into their pocket not mine. Last year I was set some hideous Local Area Agreement targets.  If I reached my targets, I’d be earning the council a great deal of money. I sweated, slogged and struggled but eventually met the targets and the money came flooding in. I had hoped for a tiny bit of this dosh to go into my own budget for use with my schools but it got swallowed into the great melting pot.

Now I can’t help wondering if any of that pot went into the pockets of the executives.

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