Dec 16, 2011
Christmas is the time for takingBack
© Reuse this
Some two-million public-sector workers, including teachers, healthcare professionals, university lecturers (including myself) and other civil servants, refused to work as government sought to cut pensions and force workers to work longer. The unions described the strike as the biggest in a generation. Government felt it was futile.
I do not wish to rehash the views of the unions and government, but rather highlight the split in opinion on the strike between public-sector and so-called ordinary private-sector workers such as retailers and workers in companies.
The argument from the private sector was simple: public-sector workers still have pensions, so why are they complaining about cuts and having to work slightly longer to get their, relatively speaking, generous payouts. Private-sector workers generally have no pensions, or their pensions were cut years ago. Currently, the mean average public-sector pension is about £7 000 a year, whereas in the private sector it is £5 000.
But what is mystifying about these arguments is that they somehow imply that what has happened to private-sector workers is right, or that if one sector of society is going to be screwed by big business and the pension companies, then everyone should. Two wrongs do not make a right.
The rich, of course, remain immune to all this. The annual pension of 346 directors from 102 of the UK’s top companies will be £200 000, compared with the average workplace pension of £8 100, a study found recently.
The current pension fight is also the thin edge of the wedge. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that, by 2080, the average person will have to work to 74 to get a pension. Further, figures suggest that the public sector may lose 490 000 jobs in the next few years. This will play itself out in the lives of ordinary people.
As the public sector shrinks, for example, waiting times in hospitals and teacher-to-pupil ratios will increase. Despite attempts to portray the public and private sectors as separate, they are also integrally linked. An enormous number of people in the private sector is dependent on the public sector for contracts.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the average family in the UK will lose £2 500 in annual household income, compared with three years ago.
So this is not about the public sector versus the private sector – this is about government choosing to support the very rich at the expense of ordinary people.
Bankers, who caused this crisis, continue to steal from taxpayers unashamedly. Directors’ pay rose by 40% last year. A total of £4.2-billion will be paid out in bonuses to bankers this year in the UK.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, now 84%-owned by taxpayers, is still intending next year to pay its top bankers £500-million in bonuses. Last year, the bank made a loss of £1.1-billion and paid out £950-million in bonuses. The top 100 bankers received over £1-million each.
Taxpayers are paying for these bonuses. So when nearly five-million people are told their pensions are going to be cut, including teachers, social workers, soldiers, firefighters and the police, it makes perfect sense they are angry, especially when they have been paying their contributions to pension schemes in good faith.
Now is the time to work together. But instead of the working public uniting to say enough is enough, different sectors of society are hurling abuse at each other. This is akin to having an argument on the deck of the Titanic about who is going to be affected the most when the iceberg hits, while the super-rich row off in the lifeboats.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Brandon Hamber News
Watching Felix Baumgartner free-fall from space and break the sound barrier was extraordinary. As he climbed out of his little balloon with the curve of the earth below him, I was in awe both at what he had decided to do and the sheer beauty of the earth below.
I am somewhat addicted to Twitter, and marginally hooked on Facebook. I find them useful in following multiple news sources, building a work profile and staying in contact with friends across the globe. That said, I think (and this is what all addicts say,...
I was 17 when I personally first encountered censorship. I produced a school play in the late 1980s which reached the finals of a play festival in Johannesburg.
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
Today’s organisations execute projects within increasingly complex environments – particularly in the engineering sector. The ability to successfully execute these projects is what drives the realisation of successful projects and, ultimately, the achievement of...
South Africa’s distribution grid is a twentieth-century relic, which must be changed to serve the country’s modern electricity needs, says South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) Smart Grid Programme manager Dr Minnesh Bipath. “What we are...
There is a disparity in government funding provided to integrated transport networks – bus rapid transit (BRT) networks ¬¬– and that given to conventional bus services, says Putco executive director Thys Heyns. “We have neglected and strangled conventional bus...
The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) is building 502 rental housing units, valued at R200-million, in Dobsonville, Soweto, which are scheduled for completion in June 2016.
Automotive component manufacturer and distributor Metair is centralising its research and development (R&D) work in Turkey, in an attempt to bolster the company’s ability to produce affordable start/stop batteries. The new R&D centre is part of an expansion plan in...
Next ArticleDoes size matter?