Pensions Meeting End at Camden Rally

24 April 2006

The general secretaries of the three main rail unions – ASLEF, RMT and TSSA – concluded a series of nine meetings adressing the rail pensions crisis with a rally in north London. This was the ninth meeting of a mini-tour taking in venues as remote as Bristol and Perth.

 

One of the major themes of the night was the responsibilities trade unionists have to the next generation when we talk about defending pensions.

 

‘This is not only a campaign for our existing members to retain fair pensions at a reasonable cost,’ said Keith Norman. ‘We also want to pass on to our children at least the same pension provision we have enjoyed. The trade union movement is about improving conditions for the future – not pulling up the ladder on the next generation.’

 

Gerry Doherty said his parents had inherited better standards of living from their parents, and that our conditions had improved compared with the previous generation. ‘I want to be able to offer the same to my children,’ he said.

 

Bob Crow spoke about the confusion that self-appointed experts introduce into pensions debates. ‘You hear them going on about actuarial variations and trustees and shortfalls and holidays.

 

‘Well, I’ll tell you what a holiday is: that is lying on a beach. And I’ll tell you what a pension is – it is part of your salary. And that’s why I am delighted to see the rail unions acting together to defend it.’

 

The unity of purpose from members of each union was almost tangible at the Camden Town meeting. ‘This campaign is about 80,000 rail workers saying they are not in the business of paying increased contributions for less benefits,’ Keith declared. ‘It is about us insisting that pension schemes stay open for new entrants and it is about securing one pension scheme for rail workers.

 

‘Privatisation bequeathed us 103 different pension schemes. You don’t need an expert to conclude that this is wasteful and pointless folly.’

 

Each union leader in turn urged members to go along to the lobby of Parliament on 9 May. ‘Government does not have a choice of whether to become involved,’ says Keith Norman. ‘It is involved.

 

‘A single pension scheme will not be re-established without the government taking the initiative. If it does so, we can make progress. If the government try to stand on the side-lines, it will be the signal for train companies to do nothing.

 

‘At the series of meetings that have ended tonight, rail workers all over the country have made it plain that this is not an option.’

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