Public sector strikes – the indeluctable modality







One of my teacher’s at university. Geoffrey Hill ,would start his early morning lecture with the phrase

“weighed down as I am by the ineluctable modality of existence…”

He would then explain to us that no matter how hard we tried to change the world it would revert to type – there was no light that could be shed on this. In short “shit happens”.

Hardly the cheeriest message to a callow youth setting out in life with a rainbow on his shoulder.

Listening to various politicos on the radio this morning, I recalled Geoffrey’s lugubrious prognosis. The strikes that are threatened are as gloomy and inevitable as we foresaw last May. They need to happen as the battle with the miners needed to happen in 1984 and the public sector needs to lose but go down fighting. We will have  worse pensions in the public sector and we won’t get better pensions in the private sector as a result.

All this needs be as it is part of the ineluctable modality of existence – the reversion to type, the inevitable “dumbing down” and “race to the bottom” that had to happen. It had to happen not for good reason but for bad – it is happening because we no longer have a private sector pension culture that can be held up as a mirror to public sector pension benefits.

Will the strikes do any good?- maybe they will make those in public sector value what they have had a little more- maybe it will spur on those in the private sector to do a little more for themselves. But they won’t stop the process that began when people like Corin Taylor published his pamphlet “Pensions Apartheid” and reached its conclusion when Lord Hutton confirmed that the divide that has developed between public and private sector pensions has rendered the latter unsustainable.

Could we afford these public sector pensions? If that was how we chose to organise second-tier retirement provision- yes. But it isn’t- the public sector will strike for nothing, like the miners they will be remembered for having tried and inevitably we will look back as we do now to the mid-eighties and mutter to ourselves

  “the ineluctable modality of existence- it gets us every time”.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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