As with any situation involving the unions, it’s always difficult to know who is telling the truth when there are two contradictory stories being told.
Regarding the public sector pension scheme, which the government has made a number of changes to, we are told by the unions that the government haven’t been negotiating properly while the government have insisted that negotiations are ongoing and labelled their offer as “generous”.
But the conduct of the government in recent days gives some indication as to how seriously they’re treating the issue. David Cameron has been accused by Labour of “spoiling for a fight” and did little to disprove such an accusation with a quite dismissive remark labelling the strikes as “a damp squib”
The pension strike has appeared to be the last thing on the David Cameron’s mind in recent weeks, with very little intent shown by the prime minister to agree on a deal.
In the meantime, random figures have been conjured up by Danny Alexander in attempts to reduce support for those taking industrial action by predicting its effect on the economy. Judging by the huge increase in the number of shoppers in cities throughout the country, he needn’t have worried.
It seemed to be yet another method of belittling hundreds of thousands of hard-working people in important jobs who will be severely impacted when the government’s new public sector pension plans kick in next spring, and the contempt shown to those workers by fellow government members highlight exactly how the likes of teachers and health professionals are viewed by the coalition.
Going back to the “generous” offer, it remains a mystery how an offer which involves paying significantly more money for a longer period of time in order to get less out of it is “generous”. When all of that is on top of pay cuts and/or pay freezes, high taxes and a cost of living which is constantly rising, and low interest rates that affect any ability to save for retirement through alternative plans, is it any wonder that the unions are in complete unity in fighting against the governments revised pension terms?
On top of the rhetoric coming from cabinet ministers, Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat Party president claimed that most workers’ pensions would be “better, or certainly no worse” under the new plans. How such a conclusion is reached, who knows?
And that is the problem. In all of the government’s claims over their generosity, they have released no details of exactly what their generous offer is, which make it hard to believe that there even is one.
Many people’s perceptions of the coalition are of a government who cannot be trusted.
The way in which they’ve handled the pensions situation is unlikely alter any such perceptions.