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Let's stand together; Your shout.

AS a member of both public and private sector pension schemes, and as a participant at the rally on November 30, I feel able to comment on the debate about public versus private sector pensions.

From the point of view of those working in the private sector, it may well seem that public sector workers are endowed with pensions that are more generous than most might receive. However, this is not the whole story.

In the past, public sector workers were less well-paid - thankfully now corrected - and saw their final salary pensions as being part of their overall package.

Meanwhile, private sector workers have generally seen higher pay, regular bonuses, but less generous pensions.

The issue is further clouded because many public sector workers are women who generally retire on lower pensions as a result of career breaks, resulting in average pensions of around pounds 3,700 a year - hardly "gold-plated".

The only "gold-plated" part of their terms and conditions has been the final salary element of their pension, something enjoyed until recently by many in the private sector.

But the bigger picture is even more complicated.

The majority of private sector workers are not members of pension schemes at all, and those who are can look forward to an uncertain future based on the state pension, supplemented by a life in older age dependent on state benefits.

Hardly a dignified existence, and surely not the basis of an argument against public sector pensions.

Let's not forget that public sector workers - around 21% of the workforce - pay for their pensions, pay their taxes and therefore contribute to the welfare of private sector workers, who either retire with a low, or no, pension.

We know that private sector workers are already more likely to claim benefits as a result of poorly performing schemes. They should thank public sector workers for bailing them out and supporting their incomes, through tax credits, in old age.

Finally, the fact that private sector workers have poorer pension plans is no reason to cut public sector pensions in a foolhardy race to the bottom. Why not, instead, fight for private sector pensions to be properly funded and uplifted to public sector levels? Why should public sector workers be vilified for fighting to defend their pension rights? Wouldn't you fight to protect your rights at work? I would urge all workers, private sector too, to stand with the public sector in this fight. After all, "we are all in this together".

Coun GARY HALEY, Dunston and Teams Ward, Gateshead Council
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 2, 2011
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