Conference backs call for ‘maximum unity in action’ against attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions


“Our priorities will not be the same as the millionaires’ priorities. We need priorities for the 99%,” said NUT deputy general secretary, Kevin Courtney (pictured).

His comments opened a debate at the TUC 2012 conference, calling for ‘maximum unity in action’ against attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions.

The state pension age is set to increase to 68 by 2046, with government moving forward its plans to increase the sate pension age for women to 65 and, for both men and women, to 66 or 67.

Moving a composite motion which called for the TUC to support the ’68 is too late’ campaign, Kevin Courtney said maintaining the current state retirement age was ‘not asking for the world’.

“France has a retirement age of 62.

“Which is better – a Robin Hood tax to bring in £20bn a year from the banks, or working people till they drop?

“Working to 68, full-time, with classes of thirty teenagers, just doesn’t work.

“That’s why the NUT, along with our sisters unions, the NASUWT, EIS, UCU, UCAC are still in dispute about teachers pensions.”

A wide range of public and private sector unions spoke in the debate, with veteran UCATT activist, Chris Murphy – who is attending conference for the last time – pointing out that while life expectancy is increasing across the UK, it is increasing less slowly for manual workers.

“You won’t see many bricklayers still working at the age of 68.

“Their backs have gone, their arms and joints have gone, their knees are completely knackered.

“So, increasing the retirement age will increase the rate of deaths in the construction industry.”

Speakers said pensions and retirement policies were also linked to wider economic issues.

Anita Halpin from the NUJ said: “The economy will only be protected when we have fair pensions and full youth employment. Only then can we get a future that works.

“We need a joined up economic strategy, including a fair taxation system.”

Mike Hayes from UNISON said public sector pensions should be ‘a beacon of hope’ for people in the private sector with a dwindling level of occupational pension cover or no pension at all.

“We must reinvigorate out policy that the minimum employer contribution to a pension arrangement must be a minimum of 10% as soon as possible and not the inadequate 3% proposed by 2017.

“It must be recognised that the government and employers must pay more, not just employees.”

The motion, which was passed overwhelmingly by congress, includes a call for the General Council to continue to support unions in dispute over pensions and to coordinate campaigns against attempts to cut pensions.

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