Next week, the Chancellor will make his Autumn Statement and is expected to acknowledge that cutting the deficit is proving harder than anyone expected.
On the same day, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility will cut its forecasts for economic growth.
Yet, the following day, on 30th November, most public sector unions are going on strike over the Government’s plans to reform public sector pensions. I have great admiration for the people who work in our schools, hospitals, children’s centres, daycare centres and local government offices. We all rely on their passionate commitment to public service.
I recognise that reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the government’s proposals to cut the cost of public sector pensions by asking public sector workers to contribute more and work a bit longer.
But I am amazed that anyone working in the public sector thinks that it is fair or reasonable to go on strike over this. If schools close as a result, this will cause huge inconvenience to working parents and their employers, at a time when businesses are under huge pressure and families are struggling to pay the bills.
If clinics close or are short-staffed, elderly and vulnerable patients will suffer, as appointments are cancelled and treatments are delayed. Even after the government’s proposals are implemented, public sector pensions will remain much more generous than the pensions enjoyed by most people working in the private sector.
The government has been negotiating in good faith and recently brought forward compromise proposals which would actually increase the pension of the lowest paid public sector workers.
I urge all members of public sector unions in and around Grantham to ask themselves whether they really think it is fair on their friends and neighbours to withdraw their services at such a fragile time for our economy.
Register your displeasure over the government’s plans with me. Be as blunt as you like. But please stay true to the ideals of public service and turn up for work as normal on 30th November.
by MP Nick Boles