Posted on 93 Comments

Are you supporting the strike? Here’s why I am not.

Image: Ohmega1982 /

I know all the tada and confuffle that is going around about public sector workers and the pension conditions.  I might even have joined them if I was one of them, and only saw the issues about three feet from my shoes – but I’m not.

I was a private sector employee when I was working.  I worked in the Human Resources arena and with experience of Trades Unions, I know that there are reasonable and unreasonable officials out there in the big old world of scoring votes (or subscription fees).

Yes, yes, I hear you all about unions standing up for the workers, but for heavens sake, that was in the days when there was zero in the way of employment law to protect employees.  The long and the short of it is that if the money isn’t there to sustain the amount of money needed to go outwards, then something has to give or it is staff numbers that will end up going.

Given the choice of losing thousands of public sector workers, or reducing terms and conditions in the same way as private sector workers have to, I have no sympathy for those going out on strike.  Most of the private sector lost their final salary pensions years ago and it irks me that just because some people are in jobs that are unionised, that they get preferrential treatment when it comes to terms and conditions of employment.  If people are striking to make a point about the cuts to the bigger society, then I hope it gets listened to, but I suspect it will get lost in the melee of striking voices.

I am a representative from the sector of society that is losing income by the bucket load for reasons like these:

  • Prices for shopping are going through the roof.
  • The DLA is refusing allowances for people who depend on it.
  • Reductions to care packages.  Because my son needs a helper to go swimming, I will have to pay for his care worker to take him.
  • Direct Payments are the Government care package cop-out.  Most people will never manage to cope with these, but they are fast becoming the norm.
  • Closing care centres and halls where clubs for disadvantaged and special needs meet.
  • Closing special schools.
  • Reducing classroom support assistants to help with children with additional support for learning needs (ASL).
  • Reducing (ASL) teaching staff.
  • School resources not being replaced and relying on parental contributions.

We have taken some pretty savage cuts this past year or two, and there are more in the pipeline, so it sticks in my throat to have this countrywide strike of privileged people who are in a position to put food on the table every day.

We are lucky in our family as we can afford to eat, and we can afford to heat our home, but I can’t help wondering how the hundreds of thousands in our Country who are not so lucky are viewing the public sector workers right now.   Don’t get me wrong, I am a Labourite through and through, and when I can see a reason to strike for justice, I will support them.

This isn’t one of those times.

Tomorrow is a sad day for me.   If the strike reaps the rewards that they want to have, I can almost hear the resounding slap as more special needs teachers, support staff and care givers are axed to pay for it.   And don’t forget all those public sector workers who will also have to go as the costs for employing staff remain high.

If people want someone to blame, they should go to where the  budget slashing started and get together to try to change it.  All those banks who got our Country into this state are laughing at us as they announce their enormous profits, but are our Government making them pay back their dues?

Perhaps they are, but it certainly doesn’t look like it to me.

Many times recently I have seen and heard the argument that striking shows the “bosses” they mean business and gets parents leaning pressure on – as they are angered by organising child care for strike days.  That strikes me as petty, mean and pointless (no pun intended).

I sympathise with those who won’t strike, whether it is for ethical or moral reasons as they are likely to be given a hard time.

I am coming across more and more of a stick it to the Government and stand up for the little people attitude.  Maybe crowd demonstrations will cut it, who knows.

Rant over for the day.




93 thoughts on “Are you supporting the strike? Here’s why I am not.

  1. What a fascinating debate, Scottish Mum! I haven’t read ALL the comments but have read through a lot : some I agree with and some I am just smiling at whilst shaking my head at the same time. I have never worked for the public sector so feel I have no right to offer my two-pennies worth, but I just wanted to make a point that as a farmer, retiring and pensions simply don’t exist. Whilst watching the news last night, my husband and I looked out at the sheep in our fields and said, “shall we leave them to it tomorrow?” To have my daughter at home was an absolute pleasure. I work from home so didn’t need to find childcare. Many parents however, did. They had no choice but take a day of unpaid leave which I suspect is something that has split our societies’ views on these strikes. There was a moment where I got irritated by the people saying how inconvenient it was to have their child at home. Since when did teachers become childminders and wholly responsible for someone else’s child? Of course they have a right to strike. But if they do, then surely so do the rest of us? How hard would that be if folk went to their local supermarket and found it closed; if they popped to the local pub and found a sign on the door saying, “We can’t afford to pay into a pension therefore we’re closed”; if there was no lamb on the shelves, bread in cupboard, cornflakes for brekkie?

    But my main point in this debate is that we’re all hard done by, none of us will escape unscathed unless we have millions in the bank and don’t need to work anyway. I feel some of the public sector should spare just a teeny thought for those people trying to run a business and living on virtually nothing because of costs, not to mention the fact they can’t afford to pay towards a pension full stop. Retiring at age 67? Wow. Lucky them.

    1. Sadly the 67 retirement won’t be an option for us at the rate things are going either. I am quite sad to see things slide so much. I remember as a 21 year old, having to sell my first bought home at a loss as Thatcher put the interest rates through the roof and I couldn’t afford to keep the payments up and live. I never forgave the Conservatives for that, I have to say.

      Then, being called a scab and having to be protected, simply because I did a favour going offshore and then a strike was called the next day. It wasn’t my rig, and I was not protected so if I had gone out on strike, I would have been sacked immediately.

      I got up and turned in to work as I had a home with a by then massive morgage to try to pay for. I spent the day sheltered by some practical men who I am grateful for, as I got insults hurled at me from all quarters from grown men. Granted most apologised the next day when the high subsided, but still, strikes make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

  2. As a young child I remember the miners’ strike. My best friend’s father, after weeks of no pay and when he could hold out no longer, had to return to work to support his large family. He was criticised, ostracised, attacked, spat at – militant recriminations divided a community, set friend against friend, family against family.

    In 21st century UK we pride ourselves on being a country where diversity is celebrated, minorities have their voice and where freedom of speech is a right. Seeing the word “scab” appear in the cyber world yesterday made me shudder and wonder if we’d suddenly reverted back to the 1970s where you’re only heard as long as you’re with the masses, vilified if not.

    The whole blog debate here shows that although not everyone shares the same views, these can be debated rationally and with respect for other’s perspective. Why should someone be silenced simply because they don’t agree with you? Why should they be fiercely criticised or bullied to keep quiet because they may hold the minority view? This week has seen behaviour online I would be shocked to see in a school playground – very sad, and an indicator that perhaps we’re not such the democracy we claim.

    Well done Scottish Mum for starting this blog and all contributors for a reasoned approach.

    1. I second that comment. We all have a right to stand up for what is right, or what we feel is right. Others may not always agree but to be divided is simply not helping anyone.

      1. Thank you ladies. This post had the potential to go so wrong. I’ve learned a few things about how feelings are on both sides so for me, that is a positive.

  3. I’ve seen your tweet about this – I can’t agree. A colleague of mine expresses the situation thus:
    As a public sector worker I pay considerable contributions into a pension scheme. That is, I and my employer, fund my pension. When I retire – if I live that long – I will become a recipient of a pension which, in all likelihood, will be sufficiently generous – due to the level of payments made across a working life – for me to remain a taxpayer until I die. This means that those public sectors workers whose careers, often involving skills, knowledge and expertise not demonstrated by other members of the national workforce, have secured a ‘comfortable’, that is ‘taxable’, pension will continue to fund state pensions and services long after private sector workers are living on state pensions and contributing nothing at all. Have people forgotten this?

    The public sector pension scheme is not experiencing a shortfall. Any extra contributions required in the future by the government, and which may force me to leave the pension scheme, are going to the government’s coffers and not into the pension scheme. Therefore it is an additional form of income tax. Hence, I will be paying more tax and for longer than most private sector workers. If, on the other hand, I leave my pension scheme, I will be relying upon a state pension, not paying as much tax, and queueing up for every possible handout available.

    Taken collectively, this is short-termism of the first order. An ideologically-driven, spiteful and myopic treatment of those contributing key services to a society which is increasingly reliant upon those services. If one wishes to resolve the disparity between public and private sector pensions one should, perhaps, consider revising the practices of the private sector pension scheme providers.

    1. I appreciate your comment, it is nice to see your point of view actually. I understand that there are huge differences in understanding between private and public sector, and lots of misunderstanding and heresay between both which is sad as it seems to have split the nation today.

      I hope the strikers have a positive outcome, whatever the result, without future repercussions, as it has been a big upheaval, but I suspect that it would take more than a one day strike to make any dent in the plans that are already in place – and I think we have missed a trick in dealing with bigger issues than just pay and pensions.

      Most private sector employees are paying hefty whacks into pension plans as well, but sadly those pots are too often lost by bad investments. Neither situation is good, nor points to a healthy future for us. I think by concentrating on pensions, other things will slip through unnoticed while the split nation argues. I respect your wish to post your feelings on it, and I certainly don’t under estimate how many people have had sleepless nights worrying about pay and conditions leading up to this. Each persons worry can potentially be devastatingly damaging to them. I understand that.

      All our concerns need addressing, but I struggle with one sector going for self preservation? Perhaps this is the start of a slippery slope that we can all take our sledges to, and I agree, all pension schemes should be revised and fall into equal lines. Perhaps none of us really knows the direct comparators between public and private in reality, and I wish both could come together somehow. How it is ever going to be possible with such a big divide between public and private I could not even begin to guess. That is a debate for a person much more able than I to address.

      1. Yes, I agree with much of what you say. The public / private divide is increasingly artificial. For example, I work in a university, which is a private employer – officially it’s a charity, and of course, pretty soon will be receiving no government subsidy at all. But the government still classifies me as a public sector worker, so it can impose a 1% cap on my wages, leaving me about 10% worse off when inflation and other changes are taken into account. What I found stunningly ill-informed abut a lot of comments yesterday was the “I pay for your gilt-edged pension” stuff that was uncritically broadcast everywhere. We all pay for each other’s pension: I had my boiler fixed the other day – the plumber needed no new parts, and spent half an hour on it. I paid him £65: some of that will doubtless go to his pension, and that’s fine. Some people seem to think that public sector workers are a total drain on the economy. Presumably they are never ill, never send their kids to state schools, never drive on public roads, never need a policeman, empty their own bins, never use a library….

        1. I don’t agree with the Gilt Edged Pension type argument, I agree that it is a rotten situation. I am definitely not one of those who think that public sector workers are a drain on economy as I think we are all needed, both private and public.

          Sadly, strikes only serve to increase the feeling of that attitide as it gets inflated. And the wedge increases just that little bit more between the two sides.

  4. Why do public sector workers think private sector are either uncommitted, or enjoy bonuses and perks? I’ve worked in the private sector for over 20 years and neither apply. I work bloody hard, and if a job has a deadline, it has to be met regardless. Although my official hours are 8.45-5pm, if I leave before 7pm I’m looked down upon, I’ve been in on Sunday afternoon through to 4am Monday morning to finish budgets. Overtime payments? Not a cat in hell’s chance. Time in lieu? Equally as rare. Fat bonus for completion – nope, but the chance of losing my job if I don’t perform.

    I trained for my career and have a degree and more qualifications than I could shake a stick at, but there is also a fallacy that my friends in the public sector have the bum end of the deal where salaries are concerned. That may have been the case 20 years ago, definitely not now, in fact GPs in particular have enjoyed better terms of late due to the introduction of performance related contracts in 2004.

    There are good / bad / indifferent workers in both private and public sectors. There are low paid and high paid workers in both sectors. Which brings me back to the starting point of my argument in this. Why should one sector carry the burden whilst the other is protected from the recession? Why should private sector have to work to 67 (or beyond) to help protect the public sector’s “right” to retire 7 years earlier?

    If I was in the public sector of course I’d be dismayed at the changes. But hopefully I’d also be able to see the wider picture and understand that this is not necessarily a result of being unfairly targeted, but rather a catch up – other sectors having submitted their pound of flesh.

  5. I can honestly say I have no idea why people are striking. But I would like to share my story, I’m 20 I couldn’t finish college due to my disability and operations ect. I explained to uni they turned me down. Now I’m a full time cleaner, my doctors have told me not to clean but what else can I do? (I have hyper mobility) I will never have a pension, I can’t go back into education as I have bills to pay, yet I’m still happy. I’ll probably start my own savings fund for when I retire(hopefully). I will probably be in a wheelchair in the next 10 years, so maybe then I’ll get some help of the government and I won’t be terrified of not paying the rent on time. My partner is self employed (just started out) so it’s hard to find money for food. It irks me that people complain when they are not aware how very lucky they are.

    1. I wish you the very best of luck and thank you for sharing your comment as it can’t have been easy to write it.

  6. Of course we are all entitled to an opinion SM! And you were inviting disagreement when you posed the question!! People forget that public sector workers contribute both to their own pensions but also to everyone else’s through the tax and NI they pay. They have been directly affected by austerity measures the same as everyone else. The fact is it suits the government to vilify this group of workers who often do the jobs nobody else wants to, we are not just talking NHS. Again I say it is far easier to bully others to accept the same poor conditions as you than it is to fight to improve your own. We should be admiring the public sector for standing up for themselves. And as for the ’emma’ who asked for my post to be deleted…..calm down dear….you’re not the only Emma on the planet!!

    1. I have invited people to disagree with me, but not to disrespect those with different opinions. I certainly don’t think I have bullied anyone into having to accept my opinion, I am open to challenge.

      I know emotions run high around this issue, however public and private jobs and vocations are blurred these days, and highly interchangeable. I would have liked to see a collaboration that was not focussed around one sectors pay and pension. I don’t argue that pay and pension is not important, nor do I think it should be a huge divide in the way it is portrayed as it demeans our civilisation as a whole when one segment has preferential treatment.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but I am sure that the policy and moneymakers will be highly delighted at the publicity and the division of opinions that today has caused.

      The tax and NI argument is levelling as we all pay towards each others, private or public. Why such a divide?

  7. Unfortunately that is the point. Many, many public sector workers are NOT being paid to do the job they do. Far from it. I can only speak from my own experiences and those of colleagues and friends I have, who are nurses, doctors, teachers and social workers, but if we were all working the hours that we are contracted and paid to do, the NHS and our education system would have fallen and crumbled decades ago. So yes, I do believe the public should be grateful for the dedication and many, many hours put in by public sector workers that they are not paid to do.

    At the end of the year there is no bonus for hard work. There is no discount for products, there is no way of claiming overtime for these hours.

    Do Marks and Spencers expect their shop assistants to put in a few extra hours a week without pay? Would a supervisor at Sainsburys do an extra couple of hours a day just to finish off paperwork without claiming overtime? I know there are many who work for small businesses who will say, well we see none of this, but at some point, if they work hard enough, that small business will succeed and the employees will see the fruits of their labour through payrises and bonuses. Lawyers, accountants, bankers, all see their extra hours reflected in their pay packets and bonuses at the end of the year.

    What about police officers, who often work in very risk situations? Is the pay they receive reflective of this. I wouldn’t risk my life for their pay.

    It is the bad teachers, the bad nurses, the bad doctors who leave on the hour at the end of their working day, who leave patients notes half written, who walk out half way through managing a very sick patient. I know doctors and nurses who have remained for 5, 6 hours after the end of their shift to see a sick patient through crucial hours in order to save their life. I am yet to meet a surgeon who has put down his instruments halfway through a complicated operation because 5pm has passed. The teachers we as parents and pupils love, who we praise and want our children to have are the ones spending hours coming up with great lesson plans, staying hours behind to put up new displays, who offer their time to run after school clubs, unpaid. When I had my babies, I really remember and appreciated the midwives who stayed an extra 1.5 hours to see me deliver my baby, knowing they would then be there for another hour completing paper work.

    And I have not yet mentioned the stress of these workers, the nights spent awake worrying about patients, about pupils, about whether or not that child should be taken into care. The anxiety and upset felt by a surgeon telling parents that their child has only months to live, the trauma felt by a nurse who has comforted a husband who has just lost his wife in a road traffic accident. What about the anxiety of the spouses and children of police officers going out onto the streets during the riots?

    So yes, I do believe that the public should be grateful for the work that public sector workers are apparently paid to do.

    1. Sorry I meant to reply to your thread….

      1. I agree with most of what you say but I would like to make the point that some people in the private sector also have a vocation. My husband is professionally qualified after years of training, much of which is post graduate and beyond. His hours are long and contrary to what many think there are no bonuses or overtime. He is a professional and expected to put in long hours, some of which could be spent at short notice overseas. So no, he is one of many private sector workers that do a 9-5 job which he can easily walk away from. He is not just responsible for staff but for the public’s safety and wellbeing as well.

        In my opinion, it isn’t just the public that should appreciate the work of public sector workers but also the work of private sector workers. In fact respect should work both ways between the sectors. Both are interdependent on one another. Without the buildings, clean water, energy and food that is often supplied by the private sector, the public sector could not function and without the public sector we would not have access to health care and education.

        The division between public and private sector is unhelpful and damaging and will not help the people in this country to have a collective voice against the current government.

        1. Sorry missed out a word, ‘not’ after ‘is’. Sentence should read

          So no, he is not one of many private sector workers that do a 9-5 job which he can easily walk away from.

          1. I totally agree Deb. The division is pointless unhelpful. We should be able to support each other, look at each others point of view and move forward together. As someone said earlier, it should not be about condemning those that strike because others are also suffering financially but acknowledging that the changes to our pensions, 10,20,30 years after entering the agreement is wrong, acknowledging that many many NHS staff have protested heavily about the NHS changes being implemented because of fear on how it will affect the future of the NHS and patient care and stand together in these difficult financial times. I am a salaried GP but it is unlikely that doctors will ever strike, for ethical reasons, but I still support my other public sector workers and do not criticise their decision to do so.

            With regards your husband, I do agree that those of us in the public sector are guilty of having a skewed view of private sector workers that is far from accurate. And you are also very correct in saying that one could not live without the other.

  8. A great debate and one we should all feel free to discuss. I have been thinking about my thoughts on this strike and I see both sides.

    On the one hand I am not comfortable with the strike as I feel that everyone should be in it together when it comes to coping with the cuts. As a family surviving on one income from the private sector we know all too well how it feels to have the sole family income hit – no wage rises for 3 years, a crushed pension scheme, long hours, working away from home. Coupled with the fact we have disabled children we are under even more threat by the attacks to essential benefits and services. So I’m sure people will understand why from this perspective I share the concerns expressed by SM.

    HOWEVER, and its a big however, I have also worked in the public sector (as well as the private sector). As a result of my experiences I have worked with many public sector workers who are poorly paid. Similarly I have worked with poorly paid people in the private sector too who also work hard and long hours in jobs that are equally physical and/or mentally tiring.

    It is clear to me that a number of people towards the lower pay end of the public sector are going to be hit hard. It is these people for whom I support the right to strike in the same way that I would support the right of poorly treated people in the private sector, though I am well aware that the right to strike in the private industry is not one many enjoy.

    However, I do not support the strike for those public servants who are very well paid and believe you me, I know, I used to work for them. For those at the top, questions should be asked whether their high salaries are justifiable in the same way that executive pay in the private sector should also be questioned.

    If we are going to address pay and conditions, maybe we should also be looking at the difference in pay between top and bottom.

    1. Now that would be fantastic challenge to be addressed for top and bottom pay differences in the public sector. I have seen some ridiculous salaries advertised. How they come to those would be interesting.

  9. I don’t think any of my frontline NHS colleagues would ever think about they’re vocation as just a job. It has never been just a job to me. I support the strikes. The private sector hasn’t been immune to strikes either. BA anyone?

    1. The likes of BA are from the legacy of pre-privatisation whose unionisation continues. I think the line between vocation and job has merged.

      I see fantastic carers working self employed or through agencies who cannot get positions with the public sector due to cuts, and they consider themselves working as a vocation, but at the end of the day, they are jobs, whatever our individual reasons for doing them.

      I find it sad they way things are going, and I completely understand how insulting it is to someone to be told that their terms and conditions are going to change for the worse, but I am not convinced that disrupting a country is the right way to go about it.

  10. Slightly off-topic but I just wanted to say that is fantastic (and rare) to find such a well balanced post and debate. There has been a lot of heated discussions and debates over the past couple of days escalating into actual bullying and nastiness over this issue.
    Personal I am firmly in favour of the strikes, but can also empathise with the frustration of those in other sectors that aren’t unionised. What a wonderful world it will be when we can all expect fair pay, benefits and working conditions regardless of where we work and what we do.

    1. I am trying to keep it civil on the blog, as we are all adults and should be able to talk about it somewhere that we are not scared to be insulted or flamed for having different opinons. Am so proud of everyone who has contributed so far for being so civil and debating in a way that is not happening on lots of news and information channels.

      1. 🙂

        1. Love the smilie, BTW can you teach me how to do that on my blog comments. Sorry, off topic too, I know, but it’s my blog so I can do that.

          1. I just did a normal colon followed by a bracket and it turned it into that smilie when I pressed post! 🙂

  11. The fact that I’m able to put food on my table hardly makes me privileged. Like many people in the private sector I have struggle to pay into my pension while supporting a young family because I believe it is important to take responsibility for mine and my families future rather than relying on the state if I can avoid it.

    If your private sector employer spends your pension pot on equipment or wages because the company is short on cash they would be breaking the law so why should my employer be allowed to wipe out all the money I have paid in to my pension because I work in the public sector?

    I appreciate you have seen cuts in areas that are important to you. In the NHS we have already accepted a pay freeze, made substantial efficiency savings and there will be huge redundancies over the next couple of years. There is a very good chance that I won’t have a job in April. I actually accept that some of these short term cuts are needed. Once the economy begins to improve they can be reinstated. The pensions, however, will be gone forever without actually having saved any money during the reccession when we needed it.

    While it would be lovely if the public appreciated the true (non-monetary) value of their public servants and supported the strikes (which of course many of them do), this is fundamentally a dispute between us and our employers and we are fully entitled to strike, with or without your support. Frankly, I can’t afford not to.

    1. I agree. For many public sector workers, it is NOT just a job, it is a vocation. We could be earning much more in similar private sector jobs but believe in what we are doing and who we are serving. Not a single one of my peers went into the job for the money. To be frank, the pay earned is only barely reflective of the hours put in, training required and the personal financial costs endured to pay for training, post grad exam fees, annual indemnity costs and numerous annual membership fees. Our peers in other countries, working in private or partially privatised institutions earn ALOT more. Many of my colleagues are already leaving the country to seek better working conditions in Australasia and North America and frankly we are at risk of losing many eminent professionals. When I first began work as a junior dr (working 100 hour weeks, earning less per hour than a burger flipper) I took financial advice re my pension and was advised that I couldn’t find a better private pension and to stick with it. It is a real kick in the teeth now to be losing it.

      I understand that many in the private sector are also suffering losses, but that does not justify what is happening to our pensions. We too have already endured pay freezes and many are at risk of redundancy. This is yet another blow.

    2. I’m not disagreeing that it’s tough, I just disagree with disrupting the whole country because a body of workers is annoyed with their employer. I would support the strike if it was for other reasons, but the pubic sector now seem to be going down the path that many private sector workers already have.

      I have to say that I don’t understand how public needs to appreciate the value of public servants, who in the end are simply people being paid to do a job, in the same way as everyone else is. It isn’t a dispute against public sector and their employers, as strikers have affected many more people than those they are annoyed with.

      We’re all just trying to survive. A countrywide walkout of ALL employers, public and private may have had me at the front of the queue, but since I am my own employer, I’d be shooting myself in the foot.

      1. Sadly there was bound to be disruption. The whole point of striking is that people recognise what it would mean to not have you at work. Either you need us, in which case pay us in a way that fairly reflects that level of need, or you don’t need us, in which case us striking should make no difference to you and the government can happily make us all redundant. What you can’t do is tell us that because what we do is so important we should still come to work no matter what the government throws at us.

  12. That post at 12.08 was not from me btw. Can u delete? Thanks!

    I agree this strike should have been over thE nhs reforms and the reduction in staff/ reduction in quality of services that’s going on a d not just about pay and conditions.

    But would like to add that many nhs staff have had their pay cut (not just frozen) already, we are contracted to work longer hours for less pay now, and most work way beyond paid hours without extra pay to cover the staff shortfalls. Many of my colleagues have lost jobs, or are unable to find a job. It’s not a great environment to work in believe me. Pensions were the last thing left and that’s why there’s been such a reaction now. I agree private sector staff should have good pensions too, and I would lose a days pay to strike and support staff in other sectors. Because we need to be united not divided.

    And maybe if mp’s were to cut their own very over-generous expenses and pensions ) and other options to save money were considered first I might be more willing to take yet another hit. I actually don’t have an nhs pension as I couldn’t afford the contributions but I support those who’ve paid in over the years.

    1. Hi, it is from an actual email address with a different IP number so I have allocated a 2 in front of her name to distinguish her from you so that should sort it out.

  13. Brave of you to stick your neck out. I agree with you. I have full sympathy with public sector workers, but the new retirement ages and dwindling pension pots affect all of us. There’s a perception that private sector workers are all corporate fat cats but stats show that the average public sector salary has outstripped the average private sector one, so while teachers etc have a right to feel aggrieved they may find they’re better off than many of those struggling to find childcare during the strike.

    1. I am from same opinion as you. We are all in this together and I think the strike is for the wrong reason to get private sector support.

  14. Jobs are always attractive – hence the reason why we have hundreds of thousands of Eastern European workers flooding in to fill them.

    If the public sector costs too much in pensions, then the government will be forced to sub contract, you’ll have priced yourselves out of the ball park.

    You say fight for your own rights and don’t ransack others, Emma who do you think will have to pay for deficits if public sector workers don’t contribute their fair share? The private sector – so you’d be ransacking ours! Is it really fair that we would have to work longer to protect your right to early retirement?

    As for those who advocate striking in the private sector, I’d suggest you try it sometime. But you are also missing the point. The company’s coffers are empty, pensioners are living longer and longer and the current level of pensions are unsustainable. Do you really think striking would fill the coffers? No, at the very best it would mean the funds would have be to paid for from elsewhere – probably in a cut of services.

    Why shouldn’t public service workers be involved in the austerity measures with the rest of us? Why do you advocate a two tier system, sod the rest of us as long as you have your benefits?

  15. A short sighted view SM. What do you think will happen to SN services 10 years from now when they can’t get anyone to fill those jobs because they are no longer attractive? Or when service users only access the care they can afford to pay for because it’s all in the hands of private companies? This is classic rule by divide and conquer. Fight for your own rights instead of supporting the wholesale ransacking of others.

    1. It’s not my view Emma, it’s my opinion. We are all entitled to our say.

      I can understand how and why many feel as you do, so I do not condemn anyone for their decisions, but I do ask for respect for those who either don’t believe in striking at all for moral reasons, or for their belief or non belief in the cause of the strike.

      I did witness a horrendous exchange against a tweeter yesterday who was treated abominably for speaking out about the strike, and I do realise that we all have the ability to debate and perhaps try to help each other understand our relative positions on the topic.

      I don’t like the way public services are going any more than anyone else does and I would have supprted a strike based on deterorating conditions at work and reduced safety with reduced budget spending, but I cannot in all honestly support action for direct pay and pensions.

  16. just because you some could not stand up in the private industries does not mean those who can in the public should not. i understand its not easy if some companys dont recognize unions, its not the dark ages to not to allow some form of protest.

    1. Unfortunately most in private sector would indeed be sacked for mentioning and acting on discontent in the workplace.

      It’s a risk and cost management thing. Employment costs legally are weighed up against the possibility of ongoing action and the amount of money the company would lose by action. Which ever one is the most expensive would decide the path of action.

  17. The strike also overlooks all those who work in public sector type jobs but are not directly employed by the government (local or national) bodies. Many lower paid jobs have been contracted out to private sector companies who pay low wages and often offer employees a far inferior pension package (where they offer one at all) than the revised offer that has been made to teachers and other public sector workers.
    In many cases the employees who work in these companies were recruited from those made redundant when the contract was privatised. These people are the ones who have really lost out.
    Too often the public sector strikers seem to assume that most private sector employees are all paid like bankers with a suitable pension fund. In fact many may be doing the same job as they are but for a much worse remuneration package.

    1. Yes, I think that is indeed overlooked. Far too many comparisons of public sector workers with private sector middle management and above. Few comparisons are being made with their direct competition for jobs.

      1. I agree that the media seems to inflate both sides in order to make comparisons which reflect unfavourably for both sides. A lot of the low paid jobs in the public sector have been contacted out and I would like all those members of staff to be part of the Union too (which they can be) and for us to fight for everyone’s rights. This shouldn’t be a race to the bottom.

        As for the idea that all public sector workers being paid at middle management wages, what about the public sector lollipop lady on 3k a year? What about the classroom assistant on 10-15K a year? What about the nurse starting at 12K and working 13hour shifts?

        Both private and public sectors have high paid workers (top civil servants for the public sector and bankers et al for the private) who skew results, but both sides also have low paid workers. The difficulty is that the term public servant is often taken too literally.

        The other big difficulty is that the public sector has a lot more female, part-time workers (like myself) who’s pension contributions are worked out on their FULL TIME salary not their pro-rata take home pay. We may take home less than 15K, (the cut off for some of the changes) but we will have to contribute as if we take home more…

        1. 12k is a lot more than I pay our carer in a year and she is private. My argument is that there is no longer a divide between public and private. The split is divisive.

          1. The spilt is indeed devisive. I agree with you. The comparison between a carer and a fully trained, graduate nurse, however is also not helpful.

  18. How many surgeons or doctors are on a relatively low salary? Doctors in particular have seen benefits increase significantly over the last few years.

    I won’t exactly be top of my performance at 67 either but will probably have to take a sideways or more than likely even backwards step so I can continue working. As will many others.

    This isn’t about a lack of respect for anyone, but a call for an understanding that yes, it’s a tough world out there at the moment BUT we’re all in it together. Expecting half the country to pay for the protected rights of others is a difficult topic and will always divide opinion.

  19. I think the retirement age is an issue for certain jobs. It’s hard to be a paramedic or a nurse on an acute psychiatric ward at 67. It’s a hugely physically demanding job as well as emotionally demanding and there are physical risks involved. I think these kinds of posts do need a retirement age of 60. I work clinically but in an area where I might manage to continue but burnout and compassion fatigue is a well documented issue in the nhs. And, for example, many surgeons are not as able to perform fine procedures as they get towards retirement age. It is different to working as a manager in an office etc. I think we should show due respect to those who do this kind of work on relatively low salaries often. I would support in any way I can decent work conditions and pensions for private sector staff. Let’s not let this gov drive a wedge between us

    1. Not necessarily retirement, but possibly reallocation of position at a certain age for jobs where physical ability is required as a characteristic. That would be a better avenue of gaining support, ie to enforce employers to adhere to age determinations in the same way that they do for part-time working.

      What about building site labourers or crane operators, or lorry drivers, or care workers in the home. They all need to be physically fit, but nobody is going to give them a break at age 60 because they are getting on a bit in the private sector. I don’t understand why there is the feeling that the public sector should be treated differently. If someone could explain that to me, then perhaps I could understand the cause a bit more.

      If those in high paid jobs, ie surgeons, lawyers, bankers etc haven’t managed to put a bit by for when they are older, then they really should take stock of their lives. They are not real life comparators for the masses, even though their situations do need looking at as they could very well be very real concerns for the future.

  20. I wonder what my employer would say if I suggested a strike? I might have to try that some day 🙂 (But not until I’ve found a replacement post!)

  21. Anyone in the private sector “standing up to be counted” would have collected their P45 as they left the door! My company certainly wouldn’t have entertained me waving a placard at them or protesting, the option is like it or leave. No pay rise? Had that. Cuts – some have had the option to either endure huge cuts or lose their job. Do you really think you can down tools and have a moan in the private sector? Try that in many of the small to medium businesses in the land and I’ll happily bet my pension (!) on the results.

    It’s inevitable the public sector would be hit at some stage by the cuts, you can’t sit in ivory towers watching the rest of us be affected but expect to be exempt. Do you really think it’s fair that everyone else should work to 67 but public sector retire 7 years early? And why exactly? No one is undermining anyone’s work or contribution, we’re simply saying we’re all in this damned mess together – please don’t expect the cost of it simply to fall on the private sector because you have a strong union!!! If you don’t contribute, who will? Or will we have to work to 75 so that you can collect your pensions at 60? Would you be happy with that?

    A lot of the militants are comparing a nurse’s pension with an MD or executive’s pension – apples with pears. How about comparing it with a shop worker’s pension, a secretary’s or any of the mass part of the private sector?

  22. anyone in the private industry who have seen the terms and conditions of their pensions or the likes change should have been organized and try to stand up and do what th public are doing. Dont knock people who have courage to stand up and be counted.
    would you pay up a settee with terms and conditions and then be told half way that a think we need to charge you more, I THINK NOT

    1. I haven’t knocked anyone. I have said that I don’t agree with the principles of the strike as being for pay and pensions. People in private sector who tried to stand up to that would be sacked, end of story. Changes to terms and conditions happen every day in private business, so why not the public sector? A genuine question for you.

      There are many situations where I would support striking in this climate and I would stand at the front of the queue waving the banner if I was allowed, but not for pay and pensions.

  23. Thanks Him Up North. I agree with you. The gov is slowly breaking up public sector services (nhs is good eg) and for me, the strike is about more than pensions. I have always been proud of the uk and our education and health services. I am still proud of the staff who work so hard. But I will be looking to leave my nhs job if the quality of services Is compromised further.

    1. Yes, I do also agree about the government eroding services, and breaking up public services.

      And I fully get it about how our services are disappearing fast, but I don’t see how striking over pay and pensions can make a difference, apart from irritate the people that the Country voted in to make these changes in the first place.

  24. For me today isn’t just about pensions. It’s about the future of public services and those whose provide them. If terms and conditions are eroded I worry where it will all end up. Yesterday Osborne warned of pay caps and over 700,000 public sector job losses. If that isn’t bearing the brunt I don’t know what is. The truth is, this government doesn’t BELIEVE in public services, and is using the economic context to push its agenda.

    Good post though 🙂

    1. Thank you.

      If the strike was about the deterioration to working conditions and safety being an issue with the cutbacks, I suspect I would have supported it. I am not seeing any evidence of that, although it may just be hidden. All I am seeing are pictures and people going on about how much they will lose in their pay packet.

      That attitude doesn’t sit well with me at the moment, considering how may people are really and truly, genuinely suffering with the cutbacks and service withdrawals.

  25. A blog open to a lot of criticism, however everyone has their own opinion. I personally think they should strike my reason being simple! Look after some of the most important people out there!! These people are educating our children, looking after our poorly relatives and the government think they move retirement markers like their moving a sofa around a house! I know it causes an inconvenience for people’s with child care etc. Which in it’s self is a nightmare! But these public sector workers are the back bone of society! Good luck to all strikers!!! And if your like me atmhome with a child because of closure,nhave fun!!!! Please not there is no malice intent I do not wish to offend anyone. Nice blog Scottish_mum.

    1. I am not offended in the slightest Studentnurse. We all have an opinion and young peoples opinions tend to be completely different to those who are older or have been involved in the third sector of society. As a student, I would imagine I would have thrown my hands up in horror at the thought of pay and conditions being eroded.

      Sad to say but those educating and looking after relatives etc are doing a job, nothing more. Some are better at it than others, but a job it is.

      Even more sadly, is that they don’t have the funds to do it properly.

      I understand they are doing the best that they can in the current environment, but kids support is being cut, kids are being excluded from school for acting up as they can’t cope with less support with budget cuts, schools are closing, staff are being cut in care providers, much outsourced to agencies or direct payments.

      Most people looking after poorly relatives are the relatives these days. Very few are in fully supported care that I know. I can imagine that in some areas the proportion is high.

      The uncaring carers also totally overshadow the ones who do a fantastic job of caring, and of those there are many, but just not enough of them as they are not supported properly either.

      1. Oh don’t let me being a student lead you to believe I’m young!! Spent a few years in the armed forces (some of that covering fire strikes) and also worked for BP offshore so I have seen both sides !! Your view is very specific to your own needs. I feel your suffering a little from tunnel vision, there’s a huge picture out there try to step back and see the whole thing. There will be people striking today that believe this is best for their families.

        1. I am looking at the bigger picture which is what makes me sad about todays action.

          The strike could have been about so much more with a collaboration of different industries supporting each other or about the reduction to quality of life and safety of personnel at work or at home due to cuts, reduction in quality of education, budget cuts putting people at risk etc etc.

          My view has nothing to do with my own needs as we are doing just fine. I feel guilty for being comfortable when others are struggling to pay their bills, which is why todays action has me uneasy.

          I don’t doubt that people will strike in belief that it is the right thing to do for their families, or that they felt peer pressure to do so, I can understand those motives, but I don’t understand where this huge divide between private and public sectors fighting their own corners with no regard to the other comes from. We’re all in this together and I think we should be tackling it together.

          1. The fight about cut back of staff in the NHS is an on going battle, Ive read most of you replys posts etc and they all seem to be around schools/ learning disabilities which is obviously a subject your passionate about. No one else’s opinion will change yours and vice versa. Nowhere states the private sector can’t commence a pension scheme sometimes in life you have to use your initiative. I wouldn’t get caught up in other peoples issues about ” paying bills” etc!! Why would you make that your problem?

  26. I am not treating this as a holiday and hope that others aren’t either. I didn’t say I don’t waht to work to 67 I said my doing so in my current job would be bad for the children I serve. Also, my main concern today is that the extra contributions I’m being asked for are not to cover my unfunded pension, as that is not in deficit. They are to na out the economy. I already have a pay freeze to help with that and once that is over, pay rises are capped at 1ppercent. I realise not all my unions demands will be met, but that’s how negotiation works. You do not have to agree with me, but I do not take striking lightly and wanted people to know why I and many other teachers are.

    1. I’ve seen much evidence today of those that are treating it as a holiday and many I guess have to stay home too as their kids need sitters as schools are off.

      In this climate pay and pensions etc are difficult to support by those of us not in the public sector because most of us have already been through the cuts and reductions already. Striking over safety, reductions to budgets etc more of us would understand.

  27. P.s. My sister (a nurse) is retiring next year at 60, lump sum and tidy pension then going back to work in the very same hospital as agency staff. What the f… .? Should we really expect that to be able to continue when the country is in severe financial straits?

    1. Plenty people in high council officer positions seem to be doing exactly the same. It’s madness.

  28. The public sector pension pot as a whole will be woefully short over coming years – who’s to fund it? ruth Hill may not wish to work to 67, are you happy for the rest of us to do so to help fund your earlier retirement?

    Yes, the reductions suck, but so do ALL the cuts and no one is coming out of this recession unaffected. Gordon Brown helped decimate private pension funds in 1997 and there are few employees in the private sector who have the reassurance of a final salary linked pension, we’re totally at the mercy of the stock market …and it looks like retirement at 80 for me. Why then should I face further cuts to protect the golden few?

    My friends and family in the public sector enjoy benefits that are rare in private business – longer holidays, more flexible hours, greater relative job security, overtime (what’s that?!). Salaries have also been much more on a par over the last decade, not everyone in the private sector is a £150k banker, what about those working on near minimum wage?

    The UK budget deficit is greater than that of Greece’s, does any sector of the community really think they can sit tight and continue unabated? And if they do, is it fair the rest of us should pay more for you?

    1. 15 years ago it was a very different story in the gap between public and private sector wages and conditions. I deleted the other comment that was done in the same name as yours. We all have an opinion and I think we should all feel safe to say what we think without being flamed or made to feel small.

      If the strike was about the deterioration to working conditions and safety being an issue with the cutbacks, I suspect I would have supported it. The coverage I have seen so far just makes me feel even more distanced from the support, especially since I have seen banners about pay and conditions and not much else so far, but maybe the coverage I have seen so far is skewed. I have seen plenty workers on “strike” out doing shopping, in parks etc today, and not much evidence of actions speaking louder than words and protesting (which is what I would have imagined striking is for).

    2. Your friends and family working in the public sector can’t be working in education then.

      1. Or the NHS. Worked 11.5 years for NHS. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of overtime and not a penny for it. And am unaware of the benefits you refer to private sector worker. The only benefit we had was our pension.

  29. I would. Just love to have a job again. Moved from
    UK where I was a manager in the NHS and since moving to Irekand the recession has hit badly and not able to find work – I sooo miss it

    1. Sorry you have not managed to find a job in Ireland. I hope something turns up for you soon.

  30. A great insight, SM. I hope you are not affected by further cutbacks on the services you rely upon.

    It’s not a pissing contest between public & private sector. Most of us are struggling financially, the cost of living is increasing drastically while salaries, if lucky enough to have one, aren’t! It’s clear the country is in financial dire straits and something’s got to give. If not the majority taking a little hit then I worry the minority will be taking a huge hit.

    Too many are viewing the strike as a holiday. If you are striking, form a picket line and tell people what you believe in. Don’t treat it as a holiday!

    1. I agree. If people are striking on principal then they should be organising demonstrations around working conditions which I might support, but not about pay which gets little sympathy when all sectors are struggling.

      1. It’s not about pay. Anyone who says it is, is misinformed.

        1. Sadly it isn’t coming across as anything else.

    2. YES!

      As you know, I’m not striking. I turned up to work today, discovered I couldn’t gain access and came home. I’ve worked since. Luckily my mum has The Boy so she came over and has been looking after him. *However*, I do believe that if you are striking that you should be at a rally! Not shopping like the majority of my colleagues.

      (I’m taking a tiny break, I’ll be working ’til 5pm, as normal)

      1. I love your attitide though. Your conviction and belief that this is not just about pay and conditions. I wish that were more widespread.

  31. I do sympathise with your views but don’t agree. I can only speak for nhs staff but we have already taken some major knocks for the economy. A 2 year pay freeze and another 2 with 1% rises max, many budgets cut by 20-30% with targets unchanged meaning staff work longer hours to meet them, many nhs staff have faced redundancy already or had their jobs downgraded meaning a 10k pay cut. Having worked in the private sector and nhs, the hard work and dedication of nhs staff cannot be matched. Clinical staff are often highly educated but choose the nhs because they believe in its ethos. They could earn more privately but like the security of the pension scheme (often for low paid part time staff). There are no bonuses or pay rises, And although I’m doctorate educated I earn a fraction of what friends earn in the private sector.

    I think that, before we are targeted for savings again the gov should look elsewhere – maybe their own pensions? Which are far more generous than ours, or capping bonuses for bankers. If we dismantle the nhs further, and make working conditions in the nhs harder, we are in danger of losing highly skilled staff.

    I know when I had my kids I was amazed at the wonderful care I received from nhs midwives and I want that to continue. So I support the strike, reluctantly because all other avenues have failed

    1. The private sector in the healthcare industry is very different to the predicament of regular public sector worker positions. I struggle to see how they can compare. Most industries are taking the pain, some worse than others sadly.

  32. I HAVE to work until I’m 67 whether I can perform in the job or not. I will most likely have to work until way beyond that, regardless of health or mental faculties – I have no choice. I work in the public sector and no longer have a guaranteed pension. The monies I paid in are now simply at the mercy of the stock markets & I could face a destitute old age. My companies have reduced their contributions, I have had to up mine. Did anyone cry? Did anyone care?

    I’d love a final salary pension. I’d love public sector benefits, even the proposed reduced ones.

    The country has a budget deficit larger than that of Greece and unpopular measures are needed. Do public sector workers really think that they should be exempt from these and the rest of us should suffer? If not, just who do they propose should contribute?

    1. I would campaign for you too. I do not get a final salary pension. Average public sector pension is 6000, hardly gold plated and average for private sector is higher. I couldn’t protect my kids at 67. In current job have to be able to restrain. There are no desk jobs to be transferred into once I am unable to do current role. Also, as I said above, teaching pension is not in deficit and does not cost Government above the employers contributions that other businesses pay. We said we’d pay more if the reassessment said we needed to. why wont the Government reassess?

      1. Therein lies the incorrect findings for the press. The strike is sensationalised around the final salary scheme and little else is mentioned.

      2. Only 13% of private employers contribute to pension funds, and those are predominantly money purchase. Over 87% of public sector employees have a funded pension. A huge disparity.

        At present, pensions analysts calculates that a “typical” personal pension pot of £30,000 could buy an inflation-proof annual pension income (called an annuity) of £1,115 a year. That doesn’t even equate to the lowest of the low of the public sector pensions and is woeful.

        1. I know. But this shouldn’t be a race to the bottom.

    2. (I’m a non-striking primary school teacher. Not because I don’t agree with the cause, I do. I’m not striking because I do not feel it is a way that works for me. I have voted to work to rule instead)

      Of the three issues, I have problems with two and not the third. I don’t object to paying the same amount in as the LEA, it’s only fair! I do object to not being able to access that to (now, an additional five years to the original age) later than when I first started teaching, and I object to the change from final salary payment to average salary. It is not fair to change the terms and conditions of an agreement that I entered into ten years.

      While I understand the private sectors grievances that the public sector can strike, unfortunately this is the benefit to having a union. It wasn’t right that they did this to anyone who had already taken out a pension scheme.

      You could always go into the public sector and then you can reap the benefits. But I wouldn’t recommend the 60hr week I used to work prior to having The Boy.

      1. I can understand the work to rule far more easily than I can understand striking. That way your employer gets the message that things need to change, but does not disrupt everyone else who is not involved.

        Sadly most public sector salaries are not that far removed from private sector ones these days in similar occupations so the gap that used to be has substantially closed or equalised. I checked out some local authorities job adverts with some private ones earlier and there was no difference to many.

        I used to do the 60 hour weeks as well, and I don’t think those types of hours belong in any industry where they expect to get the best out of their employees. Nothing good will come of how things are going, whatever the outcome.

        If pay and pensions are upheld, I suspect they will simply slash more jobs. Somebody loses, whatever happens.

        Public sector workers remained very silent when the cuts to school budgets were being pushed through, as it wasn’t in their direct interestes to help out the parents in fighting it and most said that they couldn’t speak out about their employers decisions for budgets. Perhaps if we had more support then, many more of us would support teachers now, who knows.

        I hope you don’t get a hard time today for working to rule. I have much respect for you for doing that.,

        1. In principle I agree with work to rule. It would show what we do out of school hours. I hope that it has worked for you today.

          The problem I have with work to rule in secondary teaching is it will actually a greater impact on the students’ learning. If I don’t plan lessons (which I do at home) then children will not learn. If they are not learning they will not be engaged. If they are not engaged they will play up and there will be more behaviour issues which impact on all students. If I don’t mark work (which I do at home) students will not get feedback and nor will parents. I think work to rule will also only be noticed if it is done for more than a single day as we will pick up the pieces after one day, because we are good teachers who do want what is best for the kids, and no one will notice what does and doesn’t happen. I think that the strike is an attention grabbing strategy that we use as a last resort, but that we do need to use this time.

  33. Just wanted to say I am a teacher in a Special Needs school and I will be striking. Teachers pensions are unfunded, our contributions pay for those retiring now, and it is not in deficit. Anymore contributions are essentially a second tax on my wage. Teaching ubions agreed a few years ago that our contributions would go up if they didn’t cover outgoings. The government has refused to do this assessment. I am also striking because I know that at 67 I could not still do my current job. I would not be fit enough and the kids would suffer.

    My two pennies! 🙂

    1. The rest of us have to contribute a fair chunk of salary as pension too. Sadly we will all have to work until retirement age as well. Not looking bright for most of us.

      1. I’m not saying we shouldn’t contribute – we do and should! By unfunded I mean that our contributions (which are greater than those being paid out) go into the treasury, not a pension pot. Therefore higher contributions will directly reduce the deficit, but that makes it a second tax, not a pension contribution.

        The comment about retirement age is about the children rather than me. I have to be able to restrain etc in my current job. Even as an ordinary teacher keeping control of 30 rowdy 15 year olds is actually both a physically and mentally tiring job. Not saying other jobs are, or that mine is harder, just think that older staff may not be the best education or safety for the kids,

  34. I work in ps. I’ve had my career progression removed, twice my salary contribution taken and now on threat of redundancy. I’m working to build houses for disadvantaged people every day. I’m now 33. This year has meant that I’ve made the decision that there will be no family for me! Public sector is about the public for the ones of us with a heart. I’m supporting tomorrow for those people who work bloody hard for others and won’t end up like union leaders or bankers.

    1. Sadly, the ones I come across who are mostly involved with the public directly and who have the hearts tend to not be in union protected employment. Good luck tomorrow and I hope something positive comes out of it. Just because I don’t support it, doesn’t mean that I don’t hope something good will come of it at the end.

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