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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Lib Dems and public service workers

I arrived at my house last night to pick up my first election leaflet from the Liberal Democrat candidate. The main claim in this leaflet states “Conservative pay policy will cut the pay of any soldiers earning more than £18,000. This pay freeze will also hit nurses and newly qualified teachers – all to pay for Tory tax breaks to benefit millionaires”.

Good stuff, a candidate championing public service workers. Even if he has no doubt recognised the large public service workforce in the constituency. The problem with this claim is that the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto also proposes a real term pay cut for these very same public service workers. In fact it is a key element of their cuts plan.

Even worse the Liberal Democrats are planning a raid on the pensions of the very same nurses, teachers, soldiers and others. Speaking in the Chancellor’s debate Vince Cable said:

“We fully accept the premise of your question, that more has to be done, there is a second wave of cuts that is going to happen, they are in areas like public sector pensions which clearly require more work and consensus over the long term.”

Later on he said,

“We’re talking about further cuts, now I’ve already said there are areas like public sector pensions we haven’t tried to quantify.”

In response to this Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said:

“Vince Cable clearly does not know basic facts when it comes to public sector pension schemes. They have recently gone through comprehensive reviews to ensure they are sustainable and affordable, and Lib Dem calls for cuts will come back to bite them. It is time to nail this myth that pensions in the public sector are ‘gold-plated’. The retirement age for most public sector workers is 65 and on retirement, local government workers can expect an average yearly pension of just £4,000, which drops to £2,600 for women.”

So if our Liberal Democrat candidate is going to be a champion for public service workers, he should read his own manifesto a bit more closely and check with his party leaders. We expect a bit of hypocrisy in an election – but saying different things to different audiences is simply dishonest.

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