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Lose your house to save a banker: pensions dispute

March 17, 2011

Michael Holmes, at Edinburgh University, has expressed this issue so well, we quote him in full:

You’d be hard put to find someone less militant than I am. I regard socialism with the same horror Friedrich Hayek did. So how is it possible that I ended up voting for a strike?

We got here by the Employers Pensions Forum (EPF) continually refusing to compromise on the changes needed to our USS pensions. The actuaries said that the UCU agreement to raise retirement ages and contributions were sufficient to tackle the longevity problems. The main justifications the EPF gave for their radical proposals were partly longevity, but mainly the government’s withdrawal of funds for the universities.

So the story goes that the bankers made reckless and stupid mistakes during the credit bubble and then Gordon Brown panicked and bailed out the bankers. The new government looked at the books and discovered it couldn’t bail out the bankers and simultaeneously pay for schools, universities, police etc. and decided to mount cuts. Our employers looked at those cuts, looked at our pensions, and drew a very cynical conclusion.

I’m in my early fifties. The numbers come out that the changes the EPF are trying to drive through with the unprecedented use of Sir Andrew Cubie’s casting vote will cost me about 150,000 Pounds between now and the day I die. A young lecturer just starting their careeer will be 450,000 Pounds worse off under these proposals than in the current scheme.

Those numbers neatly bracket the sorts of houses we all live in and, given what we’re all being asked to give up, it led me to the simple question “Would I Give My House to Save a Banker?”.

I decided “Hell No!” and put my X on the form. I’ve paid for my pension, I value my pension, and I’ll be on the picket line on the 17th [in Scotland, 22nd in England] and 24th to defend my pension. If you feel at all the same way, please join me there.

Mike Holmes

Pensions Officer
Edinburgh University UCU

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