The Medway Towns are expanding and getting more businesses! That’s really exciting, because it all started with an idea from an Australian internet casino.
Thursday 30 June saw Medway anti-cuts supporters, striking teachers and civil servants converge on the Command House in Chatham to protest against proposed changes to their pensions. The Medway Against the Cuts group held a street stall in Chatham high street and then marched along to the main rally to join the strikers.
A number of speakers told the crowd how the government was trying to convince taxpayers that public sector pensions were ‘gold-plated’” when in fact the average teaching pension paid to these qualified professionals is £10,000 per annum, which is less than the minimum wage.
To further highlight how the message on pensions has been manipulated the Unison speaker pointed out that the average pension of their members is a mere £2500 per annum. The fear of many teachers is that they physically won’t be able to work to the proposed new retirement age of 68 as the job is so demanding.
Teachers are also concerned that they won’t be able to afford the increase of 50 percent to their pension contributions as they, like all public sector workers, are subject to a two year pay freeze imposed by the current government. For the Association of Teachers and Lecturers it was their first strike action ever.
All of the union representatives at the rally were clear: public sector pensions are sustainable having been thoroughly reviewed and adjusted just five years ago in line with the anticipated increase in life expectancy over the coming years.
The anger felt by many is due the way the government are using public sector workers as ‘whipping boys’ for a deficit caused by the banks. This attack on workers is compounded by the feeling that the Prime Minister is intent on a reduced public sector and a greater privatisation of services as the coalition is follows an ideological political path.
This is expected to be the first of many more strike days as public sector workers stand up against the Coalition government’s attacks on their hard-won pay and working conditions.
Medway Against the Cuts can be seen most Saturday mornings outside Primark in Chatham high street, so if you want to get involved in the campaign, come along and find out why we in Medway need to stand up against government cuts.
Check Medway Against the Cuts’ Facebook page for activities and events.
Trish Marchant, Medway Green party and Medway Against the Cuts
Photograph (c) Trish Marchant