Agent Smith’s words to Neo might have a special resonance to public sector workers this week as they stand bravely, Canute-style in the face of pensions reform.
The argument is too much, too soon, and we’ve already moved to a sustainable basis. But the truth is that the public don’t want their servants to have superannuation schemes any more. After all, why should the ghillie have better provision than the laird? Or so says the Daily Mail.
This is what m’lord Hutton meant when he said that public sector pension reform was no longer just an affordability issue. It’s a political one, and all the threats of the next General Strike mean nothing while public servants are perceived to enjoy better pensions and, crucially, job security than their counterparts in the private sector.
The lang cat is a bit of an old pinko liberal, and I can’t help feeling that we’ve been on a crash course towards this for decades. Every time you voted for a tax cut, every time you told Sid and bought a privatisation issue, every time you looked the other way as market forces inveigled their way into the public sector – whether under a red or blue government – you were moving closer to the moment when public servants started just becoming employees like everyone else. And plenty of people in the public and third sectors did all of those things. No point crying about it now.
What the public sector is left with remains one of the best schemes in the country. Dave Prentis may consider himself The One, but for me the best job he can do is to fight hard to protect the covenant as it now stands for a set period into the future – perhaps 20 or 30 years. As general public understanding of pensions increases, and the private sector dumbs its provision down still further, public servants will still be on the gold standard.
Now, repeat after me. There is no spoon. There is no spoon…