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Bill Morris, Leader of the TGWU
"The Chancellor indicated his willingness to listen"
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banner Monday, 25 September, 2000, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Unions keep up pensions pressure
John Edmonds Gen Sec GMB
John Edmonds: "Labour MPs could be early pensioners."
Trade unions are keeping up pressure on the government to restore the link between pensions and average earnings, despite a warning from Tony Blair that it would impose a huge burden on future generations.

Trade unions Unison and the GMB said they were planning to bring forward a motion on the earnings link at the Labour Party conference in Brighton later this week.

The Transport and General Workers Union and Age Concern have published an opinion poll showing that nine out of 10 people believed the state pension was too low.

Tony Blair said on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme on Sunday: "If we re-link pensions with earnings now it wouldn't be a great problem for this government, not for the next few years.

"But 10, 15, 20 years down the line it would impose a huge additional expense on that future generation and it isn't a responsible thing to do."

'Up in arms'

John Edmonds, General Secretary of the GMB, warned Labour that the pensions issue was its "single biggest electoral liability" and said the long-term impact of not restoring the link would be far greater than the problems over fuel.

"Dozens of Labour MPs are themselves facing early retirement unless the concerns of pensioners and the public are allayed."

Unison said its call for a substantial increase in the state pension followed by a mechanism for regular uprating, such as a link with average earnings, would have to be addressed by the party.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Two, three, four million pensioners out there are absolutely up in arms, not just about the 75p [pensions rise], but about this whole general approach and the fact that they see themselves as not wanted on the voyage."

"I believe the government will do something, they are going to have to do something. It is whether or not they can tell us that this week," he said.

'Soak the fuel companies'

Mr Edmonds also called for a 3bn windfall tax on the big oil companies because they had co-operated with the fuel protests.

He said this would mean that 25p could be cut from the price of a gallon of petrol.

"The oil companies have not come over all sentimental. They had an eye to the main chance.

If the demonstrators had been successful in knocking 5p off fuel tax we all know the oil companies would have sneaked a couple of pence back on at the pumps - they are the all-time winners in this game."

Remembering a previous industrial dispute, Mr Edmonds said: "How I wish the oil companies had taken the same helpful attitude when the NUM pickets tried to stop fuel supplies during the miners' strike.

"I do not believe that BP, Shell, Esso and Total have a moral entitlement to a profit bonanza just because Opec are restricting supplies."

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See also:

24 Sep 00 | Labour
Brown faces pensions anger
24 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Pensions policy 'seen as unfair'
24 Sep 00 | Talking Point
Do the elderly get a raw deal?
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