Local government workers in Swindon were on strike today as part of the national action organised by 9 trades unions. The strike included council workers at the civic offices, those at Swindon Commercial Services, Teaching Assistants and clerical staff in schools, Libraries and Leasure Centres. They were taking action in defence of the right to retire at 60, without losing any of their pension.
Earlier in the year the government conceded the right of current staff (e.g.teachers, civil servants) to maintain their existing pensions. Hence in a school you have the anomaly that teachers can retire at 60 on a full pension whereas teaching assitants working with them would have to work to 65 to gain their full pension.
The majority of these staff are women who usually lose out on their pension because of the time they take off for child care. The picture painted in parts of the media of privileged public servants is nonsense. The average local government pension is £3,800 a year, with many women taking home less.
Further negotiations are to take place, with the unions committed to further action in the government and the employers refuse to move.(The photo shows UNISON members picketting the central library.)