09:21 Monday 12th September 2011
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: We’re talking about pensions this morning. The Pension Bill currently going through Parliament will raise the age at which both men and women can claim the pension to 66 of course, by 2020. But the Government hinted over the weekend that the retirement age may have to go up to 67, as early as 2026. Well it will be something they’ll be talking about no doubt at the TUC’s Annual Conference, which opens today. It’s the first to be held at their headquarters in London. It’ll debate the future of public services today, with some unions threatening industrial action in protest at planned cuts, and of course the problems with pensions. Well over the weekend the Government confirmed it will bring forward plans to increase that state pension age to 67, and earlier on this morning I caught up with Frances O’Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary. (TAPE)
FRANCES O’GRADY: I think there’s a very determined mood amongst delegates today. A lot of working people are feeling very angry that this time last year the Government was promising us recovery, and now we face the very real prospect of a double-dip recession. So the Government’s policies are not working, and today we’ll be debating what the economic alternatives should be.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. There have been calls in the past for co-ordinated action, and many of us expected this to be a difficult summer, but it’s not really transpired that way.
FRANCES O’GRADY: We’re in negotiation on pensions, as many people know. But at the moment the Government is still expecting people to work longer, to pay more, and to get less. So unless there’s some kind of compromise on the part of the Government, unless they rethink and get serious about negotiation, I think there is a very real prospect of further industrial action in the autumn.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. There were hints yesterday from Danny Alexander that we may have to work until we’re 67, and that may even be brought even further forward. So the pain gets worse perhaps?
FRANCES O’GRADY: And of course this isn’t just pain in the public sector. Whilst public sector workers feel very angry, because they’ve paid in all their lives, for very modest pensions, that are now looking set to be cut, but of course we’ve got a real crisis in the private sector too. And if people aren’t in decent pension schemes, with employers paying in, and workers paying in, for a decent retirement pension, then in the end it’s going to be the taxpayer who picks up the bill.
PAUL STAINTON: What can the unions realistically do about this though? How can they influence things? Because many people have called you toothless, and irrelevant almost.
FRANCES O’GRADY: Well our unions are organising themselves as a last resport for industrial action. But I think we’re also concentrating today on building community support, public support, for our economic alternative. The Government’s policies aren’t working. We need to start investing in growth, creating decent jobs, not least for those 1 million young people who are unemployed. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Francis O’Grady talking to me earlier, TUC Deputy Secretary.