As discontent grows over changes to public sector pensions, Ben Moss says the government must paint a picture of a future where people’s working time is more fulfilling, engaging, productive, energising and better for society.
There has also been members of the various teachers’ unions and of the PCS strike in response to proposed changes to public sector pension provision. Other unions, including Unison, are threatening the same, depending on how the discussions progress.
This is a contentious issue in a public sector that is already reeling from budget cuts, pay freezes, redundancies and unprecedented levels of job insecurity.
It’s also causing controversy among private sector employees who claim the public sector has had it too good, for too long.
There seems to be little private sector sympathy for the strikers because the majority of private sector workers can expect much less in the way of pensions.
Furthermore, many in that sector have already experienced downsizing and reduced salaries. At the heart of the debate is the fact that representatives of workers in the public sector claim they agreed to lower wages in exchange for better pensions. However, ONS figures from April 2011 – revealing that public sector salaries were, on average, 7.8 per cent higher than those in the private sector – have undermined these assertions.
The expectations of workers are central to this debate, and private sector workers would claim that theirs are the more realistic right now. They feel that public sector workers need to accept that their working landscape has changed.
This means, by extension, it is up to the government and employers to manage expectations about what is possible in this climate. Of course, some would argue that the last government and its agencies did not do a good enough job here, because that is when expectations were raised.
But we are where we are and the current government has a role to play in helping public sector workers adjust to the new reality. The fact that job security is at an all-time low certainly helps get that message across, but there is also a need for more systematic, constructive communications and support.