Thursday, 19 February 2009

The pension levy

Ireland is full of vocal interest groups, who make a noise way out of proportion to their numbers or the gravity of their problems. The Irish Language Lobby is the best example. Doctors and consultants are another, and don’t forget property developers, lawyers, farmers and publicans. Then you have the Civil Service and the pension levy.

I just know I’ll be accused of being a neo-conservative now - and I’m aware of the of the employers’ tactic of pitting private sector against public sector worker - workers’ solidarity, make the bosses pay… I know all that. But sorry – this has to be said.

At a time when the tax base is shrinking as more and more workers in the private sector lose their jobs, funding for public services is not as plentiful as it was in the “boom” times. Many people in private employment are being transformed from tax contributors to social welfare recipients, meaning there is less money to fund the public service, as more demands are being made on it.

So, on the scale of things, is asking civil servants to contribute to their pensions really the end of the world? After all, if you’ve got a permanent public job you can, at least, ride out the recession. You’re less likely to find yourself on the dole.

All this is even more pertinent in the light of benchmarking, which brought civil servants’ pay into line with those in the private sector. Before then, civil servants’ remuneration was somewhat less than that of their private counterparts – who generally work in a far less secure environment. The payback, however, was job security.

It’s amazing then, that when private sector jobs are falling faster than a roomful of flies after a blast of Vapona, that this issue is the one about which the unions seem most vocal.

And let’s face it, some poor bugger who has been let go by Dell is hardly going to take to the barricades with a placard because civil servants have to contribute to their pensions… especially as most in the private sector have been doing that for years.

So how about it, brothers and sisters? A bit of perspective here?

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Bernd said...

If you are a neo-con, so was Marx (not Groucho):

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

'nuff said!

Anonymous said...

What annoys me most about the current Civil Service moaning is that Civil Servants genuinely have no idea how good they have got it. They continue to get Pay increases (in 2 forms -1. Increments -2. Annual percentage pay increases. No one - and I mean no one - in the private sector is getting either of these huge benefits. For the last 10 years - the majority of private sector workers have received between 0 and 1% pay increase (i.e. a net pay cut after inflation) and the concept of increments are not part of private sector life. In addition Civil Servants have permanent jobs so do not have the constant worry about being made redundant. Fianlly - it is IMPOSSIBLE for someone in the private sector to buy a pension equivalent to the Civil Service one. If it were possible - it would likely cost between 20-25% of annual salary. So - YES - Civil Servants should have the pension levy applied and - YES - the culture of permanent jobs regardless of ability/skill/performance needs to be removed from the Civil Service. I really wish they would just get a grip and realise how cushy a number they are on!

David McCann said...

(Re-posted without spelling mistakes):


Perspective is the big question.

Class systems have always created bureaucracies to manage thr state in their interests.

Because our political system is a class system, of imposed rule by the capitalist class, the state system has this bureaucratic character.

Initiative is stomped on and fawning subservience and unquestioning loyalty to the real requirements are rewarded. The real requirement being, not the provision of quality services in an efficient manner; but the suppression of the citizens' rights, a niggardly implementation of service provision and a contempt for your co-workers and the role you provide..

A total absence of democratic control of the workplace, dominated instead by fear and cynicism, creates a regime of suppressed workers, interspersed with cronies or 'company men/women'.

If you accept the status quo of this class society. If you do not believe this system is in terminal crisis, then you totally misunderstand the 'Pension Levy Protest/March.'

You referred yourself to the state's contemptuous campaign to cause a split between public and private worker. The Trade Union leadership understand the state's intention; and facilitate it by keeping the opposition by workers tied into a straitjacket of sectional interests - 'support your colleagues in the public sector' sort of stuf.

When the real, underlying, issue is the class issue. The March last Saturday was clearly a protest against the Government, ON EVERY ISSUE. Indeed the overwhelming feeling on the march was hatred for the bankers and the Government's protection of the rich at all costs.

This is the perspective. Not falling into the trap of placed for you of adopting the cynicism of the bourgeoisie and their lackeys (Their most significant fawning servants being the Trade Union and Labour leadership; and the so-called 'Left' groups like SWP and the Socialist Party, who do not in a million years actually believe capitalism will end - but who essentially are a reformist protest movement)

Either you are firmly for the status quo - like the Union Tops and work day in, day out for it's survival – after all as Union bureaucrat you are a creature of this system.

Or you begin to clearly see that what is unfolding is not a sectional campaign of this or that part of the population; but a life and death worldwide struggle to end the class system and free the productive forces to grow exponentially under the revolutionary democratic control of the world's populace, in a socialist planned economy.

The Gombeen Man said...

wasn't on the march David... but I'd be surprised if even a small minority on it were there to dismantle capitalism and end the class system (certainly not those outside leftist groups anyway).
Certainly from the banners that made TV and the papers, and the rhetoric of the union bureaucrats, the pension levy featured most strongly. And sorry, you won't get me down to the barricades on that issue.

You are right about the trade union leaders. They cosied it up with Government in "social partnership" and influenced the very policies that created this mess. Another scapegoat is "the bankers" (that's an Animal Farm-esqe slogan they use a lot these days).

Sure... jail corrupt bankers and jail the Golden Circle if they default on what they "borrowed" from Anglo... thats what the courts do with working-class people who don't pay debts or even TV licences (see my piece about McEvaddy, further up). But this hasn't been caused by "greedy bankers" alone, as Begg and others would have us believe.

The bankers were part of it, along with the economists, the Government, the developers, the speculators (including many "ordinary" people buying apartments) created the property inflation on which the false economy was based. Oh, and the union leaders who said little or nothing about tax incentives in the property market, pushed through benchmarking - which was never affordable or justifiable - and were as much part of the Establishment as any of the other players.

David McCann said...

GM, The point I am making is not that the marchers, en masse, consciously set out with the demand for socialism; but the objective circumstances, events, are driving the two opposing camps into more open confrontation - on the issue of what type of political and economic system should the world live under.

The question of nationalizing the credit industry under state control and the bankruptcy of capitalism are there for all to see.

While the great majority of marchers are not out-and-out committed socialists the recent days have increased dramatically the level of consciousness on the key question of class, economy and political power.

However, unlike the bourgeoisie, the working class have no political leadership of their own; and the parties and organizations that currently claim to represent the interests of the great mass of the people are in fact actively setting out on the road to betrayal – the march organizers and all the political groups who took part are, in the final analysis, defenders of the status quo.

I believe your own prejudices are blinding you to what is actually taking place in front of your eyes.

I'm not sure if I already mentioned on a different post the articles on the world economic crisis by Nick Beams on the World Socialist Web Site (

I would advise you strongly to study these articles. The Marxist analysis of capitalist economy is that there is an inherent tendency within capitalism for the rate of profit to fall, after a previous rise in the curve.

This began to make itself felt in the post-war period in the 60's; and eventually capitalism went down the rampant free-market route to drive up productivity to try and overcome this tendency for profit to fall. The speculative/credit boom was a move by, especially, the American bourgeoisie away from productive capital altogether into money profit-making - a bubble of fictitious capital. In an equally forlorn attempt to overcome the inherent tendency within capitalism.

Eventually this bubble, or inverted pyramid, of fictitious capital had to collapse because it was not underpinned by growth in real profit from productive capital.

We are now living through this collapse; and it is far from finished.

To restore true profit back into the system of capitalist economy the bourgeoisies must destroy all fictitious capital.

This can only mean war and fascism.

Or revolution and socialism.

The capitalists have created the basis for a new leap in economic development; but only if the mass of people take political power under their own mass political party and implement rational economic planning under collective ownership.

Please do study the World Socialist Web Site.

The Gombeen Man said...

I don't doubt your sincerity, David. And I don't want to sound patronising when I say I was on the PAYE/PRSI demos of the 80s... and socialists were saying the same thing as you are saying now, so I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Also, my experience has been that workers are conspicuous by their absence in many socialist groups, which are largely middle-class and studenty in make-up. I came across a few of these in London (see my post on the anti-fascist day out, think its the second one down on the blog main page) and to be honest with you, they put more working people off the idea of socialism than they attracted.

I'm not being horrible, but how exactly do you propose to build this mass-workers movement? What's to say it does not become as corrupt as the old ones?

Again, please don't think I'm having a go here at you here - I'm not. I agree with much of what you say... I just would not share your certainty.