Falkirk East SNP MSP Angus MacDonald has slated Falkirk district’s two Westminster politicians Michael Connarty and Eric Joyce following their party’s failure to back an SNP and Plaid Cymru motion today (Thursday) which called for the UK Government to reverse unfair changes to public sector pensions. Angus MacDonald condemned the two MPs for letting the Tories off the hook over punitive public sector pension reforms.
The debate – the first since the UK Government announced its pension reforms – comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a day of action last week. The SNP and Plaid Cymru debate had been welcomed by a number of unions.
Speaking after the vote, Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said:
“Instead of uniting against these punitive reforms, it is incredible that Labour have chosen to let the Tories off the hook and let public sector workers down by sitting on their hands.
“The millions of workers who marched through the streets last week will be aghast that Labour MPs have refused to even walk through the lobbies for them.
“This was the first debate and vote since the UK Government announced its plans, and it should have been a moment when MPs from all parties united against these coalitions cuts.
Labour are clearly not interested in the welfare of public sector workers. Despite having had thirty six debates since to raise this issue, since the UK Government announced their plans, Labour has remained silent.
“It is also clear that these punitive reforms are all about the UK Government’s deficit reduction plans, and have nothing to do with securing sustainable pensions. The aggressive and arrogant threat to reduce the Scottish Budget by over £100 million annually if their reforms are not implemented proves that the Scottish Government has no option outside applying these increases and that the UK Government continues to have the power to meddle and influence issues which are central to the future of Scotland and which should be for the Scottish Government to decide.
“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to relish strike action.
Support for the SNP’s motion has been expressed by a number of groups, including:
The GMB (Scotland) said: “The Public Service Sector trade Unions and the Scottish Government Should be free to negotiate on the matter of both the level of pension contributions and the longer term benefits without the blackmailing threat from Westminster to cut the Scottish Budget. If we were allowed to do that then I am sure an agreement that is affordable and sustainable could be reached and in so doing avoid any further disruption too services to the people of Scotland.”
The National Union of Teachers said: “The National Union of Teachers welcomes the Opposition Day debate and congratulates Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party for securing it. As the motion correctly states, the Government’s proposals are all about reducing the deficit and have nothing to do with ensuring the long term sustainability of pension provision. Rather than creating an unnecessary and damaging divide between the public and private sectors, Ministers would do well to focus their attention on securing fair pensions for all if successive governments are to avoid future pensioner poverty on an unaffordable scale.”
The University and College Union (UCU) Wales said: “We are pleased that MPs will debate public sector pensions a week after tens of thousands of people in Wales took industrial action to show how angry they are with the proposed changes to their pensions. The action last week, alongside the debate on public sector pensions, is testament to the strength of feeling on these issues which will make public sector workers work longer, pay more and receive an inferior pension. We hope today’s debate sends a clear message from the people of Wales to Westminster that we will not go quietly into the night over these proposed changes.”
Concluding Angus MacDonald said:
“The UK Government’s proposals will impact on millions of hard-working public sector employees and I am astonished that Labour have failed to support them in Westminster today.
If you ever needed a sign of Labour hypocrisy on pensions – their abstention on our public sector pensions motion today, which would have stopped the cash grab and ended attempts to blackmail devolved governments, it is clear that while Labour pay lip-service to supporting hard-working public sector employees, when it comes to the crunch they fail to support them.”