Welcome to my Blog

I am a semi-retired former Scottish trade union policy wonk, now working on a range of projects. All views are my own, not any of the organisations I work with. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Friday, 9 July 2010


I am a blogosphere free zone for the next few weeks while I take my summer holidays.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Public Sector Pensions

More nonsense yesterday from the Institute of Directors on public sector pensions.

Masquerading as an 'independent report' they produced an outrageously selective analysis of the state of public sector pensions. As a pensions negotiator, if I had taken the years when the schemes were in surplus and employers paid nothing in contributions as my starting point, then I would rightly be ridiculed. That is precisely what they are doing. In fact the schemes have all been recently renegotiated and have new cost sharing mechanisms in place to deal with future costs.

The real agenda is the bosses embarrassment at cutting their own workers schemes whilst paying themselves ever higher pensions. They even have the nerve to propose cutting benefits to 80ths, when their own schemes often have 30ths or 40ths. The IoD members have the real 'gold plated' pension schemes with their members in the top companies typically picking up £247,000 p.a. pensions, compared with the average of £4000 p.a. in local government.

Our full response and a detailed explanation of public sector pensions is on our website.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Young people and public spending cuts

The headlines this morning focus on the impact of a tightening jobs market on graduates. Competition in the jobs market is fiercer now than for the first "recession" generation of students. Last year there were 48 applications for each vacancy, now their are 70. The number of applicants chasing each job is so high that nearly 78 per cent of employers are insisting on a 2.1 degree, rendering a 2.2 marginal and effectively ruling out any graduates with a third. In 2008, when the economy was buoyant, just 57 per cent of employers insisted on a 2.1 or higher.

This reinforces the concerns we have previously highlighted on the impact of public spending cuts on young people. There are many young people (mature graduates as well) who have been studying for a degree and professional qualification, with the reasonable expectation of a job in the public sector. With jobs being lost and equally important, an almost blanket recruitment freeze, those jobs will not be available. There can be nothing more demoralising than having studied for years, only to find that the effort and cost is wasted.

And it is not only graduates. There will be a generation of young people who would have an expectation of an apprenticeship in a public sector occupation. Again these will at best find a job with little or no training or prospects. At worst they will join the growing numbers of the young unemployed, proportionally higher than other age groups.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Bosses gain while women lose out

More evidence today that private sector bosses are paying themselves huge pay increases, whilst lecturing everyone else on the need for pay restraint.

A survey by the pay consultancy MM&K has looked at the latest annual reports of 657 companies. Bosses at the UK's top 100 listed companies have seen their pay rise 5% since 2008 to an average £3.1m. This is despite a 1% fall in earnings per share over the same time. CEO's pay has quadrupled over the past ten years.

In stark contrast an audit of last month's Budget has shown that women will shoulder nearly three-quarters of the burden of cuts and tax increases. An independent analysis carried out by the House of Commons library describes the Budget as the "worst for women since the creation of the welfare state", showing that more than 70 per cent of the revenue raised from direct tax and benefit changes will come from female taxpayers: of the nearly £8 billion net revenue to be raised by the financial year 2014-15, nearly £6bn will be from women and just over £2bn from men.

As Shadow Welfare Secretary Yvette Cooper, said today "Women are bearing nearly three-quarters of the Tory-Liberal plans, while men are bearing just a quarter. This is despite the fact that women's income and wealth is still considerably lower than men's. Even more significant, this doesn't include the impact of public spending cuts. As women make up more of the public sector workforce they will be more heavily hit by the public sector pay freeze and the projected 600,000 net public sector job losses."


Friday, 2 July 2010

Labour Leadership

In Leeds today at the annual UNISON UK Labour Link Forum. The morning session was taken over with a hustings for the UK leadership elections.

Interesting to see how the candidates handled questions on issues that matter to UNISON members. Public service cuts, private finance, privatisation and from our Scottish delegation, their understanding of devolution and different policies in Scotland. Lots of fairly polished answers as you would expect after what must seem a lot of meetings in the campaign so far. Personally I would have preferred to hear more about their values, what makes them tick, so I can be clear about the real differences between the candidates.

We are currently consulting over which candidate, if any, UNISON will support. The decision will be taken by our UK Labour Link Committee on 21 July. It will be interesting to see what impact the candidates have had on our members in Scotland when we collate the feedback in a couple of weeks time.