We’re not going to be mugged by millionaires and billionaires any longer

30 Nov

As a potential three million people take strike action today in defence of their pension entitlement – the largest coordinated strike action ever seen in the UK- it’s crucial to reinforce why people working in the public sector have been forced into this corner.

The UK economy, like so many other countries across Europe and the rest of the world, is in crisis.  The mantra from Westminster and David Cameron has been to tell us time and time again, ‘We are all in it together’.  We must all share the pain of this economic crisis.

Why should we share the pain?  Look around us here today, thousands of people that provide essential public services joined in collective protest.  The teacher didn’t cause this crisis.  Neither did the nurse or the school janitor or the refuse collector.  While capitalism went crazy over the last generation, you were treating our sick, educating our children and caring for our most vulnerable, doing the jobs that keep everyday life going.

Many people from across the private sector also join us today in solidarity through their own volition.  Hard-working people like the engineer or the construction worker; they didn’t cause this crisis either.  And comrades neither did the ordinary shop-floor worker in our high street banks, many of whom come from our union’s finance sector and have joined the ranks today across the country.

Everyone knows where the blame lies for the economic mire we find ourselves in today.  It lies squarely with a corporate class who gambled and lost with every facet of our lives;  our savings, our mortgages, our pensions – the ‘1 per cent’.

It also lies squarely with the failure of governance.  Not one UK government since 1979 can wash their hands of the blame for this mess.  In the UK , successive governments bent to the demands of the city.  And if they didn’t openly encourage it, they certainly turned a blind-eye to what can be best described as corporate greed and at worst downright criminality.

Most galling for us all is that the ‘1 per cent’ are still being allowed to get away with it by our political class.  Look at the facts:

  • The pay of the head of Barclays increased nearly 5,000% in the last 30 years while average wages for you and I have increased just three-fold at best;
  • The very banks which we had to bail out with our taxes paid out £2 billion more in bonuses this year than they did at the start of the financial crash in 2008;
  • David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne & Vince Cable continue to resist a Financial Transaction Tax – the Robin Hood Tax – a miniscule charge on transactions between financial institutions which could generate billions.

This system works for the few, not the many but now it’s broke.  The free-market, casino capitalism, neo-liberal economics…whatever you want to call it…it has failed ordinary hard-working people and we aren’t going to prop it up any longer.

On pensions, we all know the realities:

  • The NHS pension scheme receives £2 billion more in contributions than it pays out in benefits;
  • Staying in the NHS, the average pension is just over £4,000 a year; and
  • In the Local Government Pension Scheme the average is also £4000 a year – and only £2600 for women who dominate the part-time ranks.

And yet Con Dem Ministers and their poodles in the popular press lie through their back teeth to tell all and sundry that your pensions are ‘gold-plated’, that you are lucky to even have a pension.  It’s sickening.

Why should you bear the brunt of austerity by having your modest terms and conditions frozen or cut?

Why should you work harder, for longer and for less? 

Why should you be forced to accept the prospect of a retirement in hardship?

In the years to come, David Cameron’s big lie that ‘We are all in it together’ will go down as one of history’s greatest cons.  But the truth is out and we’re not going to be mugged by millionaires and billionaires any longer. 

The solutions can’t be found in politics, but they can be found in people.  And everyone here today has a vital part to play.

The attacks on our pensions by this Con Dem Government merely represent the first waves of what will be a very long and sustained attack on the terms and conditions of working people.  And unless we want to be pawns in a rich man’s game, we must stand up for ourselves and fight-back.

I’m proud of the robust resistance you are demonstrating today to defend your modest pensions but when you leave here today, prepare yourselves for the long-haul.  Your unions will stand with you and we will support you every step of the way.

Return to your workplaces and communities – agitate, educate and organise. 

Today isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning. 


Transcription of Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty’s #N30 ‘Day of Action’ speech, delivered at the Glasgow Barrowlands Rally. 


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