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Wednesday 30 November 2011
Letters: Inflated pay at the top provokes strikers' anger
Dominic Lawson has missed two points when he asserts that it is the haves rather than the have-nots who are going on strike (Opinion, 29 November).
Much of public service has long been outsourced, the lower-paid jobs being done by private-sector contractors (hospital cleaners, bin men, road maintenance, public transport) whose labour-intensive business is subject to regular competitive tendering to keep wages down, leaving only higher managers and regulators in public-sector employment, thus skewing the pay comparison with the private sector.
Lawson also misuses statistics in comparing public and private sector median pay. Had he used average pay, that is, mean, not median, he would have revealed that the public sector figure he quotes (£539 per week) is very close to the national average (mean) for all workers (just over £500 as quoted in another article in your paper last week).
That is much fairer than the private sector's median of £465 per week, which shows that far more than half of private sector workers are paid less than the mean average. How can that be? Because people at the top of the private sector are paid so much more. That upward drift in top pay has been relentless for about 30 years. There aren't many "haves", but they each have plenty. And no, it is not they who are on strike.
Dominic Lawson compares those going on strike to children making unreasonable demands on their parents around Christmas. I wonder what he has to say about the bankers who throw a tantrum every time someone suggests that they shouldn't have such a large bonus every year: "If you don't give me my annual million I'll leave the country and never come back! Never never never!"
That is, they threaten to withdraw their labour for ever; and Mr Lawson gets annoyed when a nurse or a teacher withdraws their labour for one day.
Dr Aida Sanchez
On Wednesday I will be one among millions striking to maintain decent pension provision, proud to be part of a union prepared to stand up for its members.
As usual the Government wants to divide today's working classes by setting private against public sector workers and "blue" against "white" collar. The important fact is that our private sector pension provision is among the meanest in Europe.
The big supermarkets and banks are run by small cliques of directors who set the remuneration policy of their companies; it is up to them to put more into the pension pots of ordinary employees out of often mountainous profits, and it is up to their workers to take united action to match ours.
Mandated by a handful of huge corporate shareholders and charged with powers to set their own pay and pensions, I don't think the directors' mandate compares too well even with the 23 per cent of all voters who voted Conservative in 2010, let alone the 92 per cent of NUT members who have endorsed our strike.
Vice President, Bradford National Union of Teachers
Judging from recent letters, and statements elsewhere, many strikers appear to be in partial denial of the economic realities of an ageing population. But it is the Government which is mainly to blame for the strike. If it had been as committed to closing the wealth gap as it has been to delaying retirement, I doubt the strike would be taking place.
As I see it, negotiations have stalled primarily because of the cynicism and despair generated by the claim we are "all in it together" when it is obvious we are not.
For that to become the case, there would need to be a general acceptance that retirement and pension changes would be phased in, in step with measures to end the bonus culture, close tax havens and limit top pay. But to attempt the one without signalling real willingness to do the other is to risk a winter of deepening discontent and delayed economic recovery.
Is anyone else inspired by the latest government mantra: "People in the public sector enjoy pensions that those in the private sector can only dream of"?
Why stop here? Try "People in Britain enjoy employment protection that those in Third World sweatshops can only dream of." Or "Children in Britain enjoy an education that those in Afghanistan can only dream of." There are unlimited ways of saving money and "getting this country out of the mess it has inherited".
Do you remember when teachers, ambulance staff, nurses, midwives, doctors and firemen crashed the markets, wiped out economic stability, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No, me neither. Yet, it is public sector pensions which are under attack.
No public-sector worker earning under £15,000 will have to pay more for their pension and no one within 10 years of retirement will have to work longer. I suspect this is the reason only a third of union members took part in the ballot and less than a quarter of Unison's members have triggered this facile, political strike.
At a time when resources should be focused on getting young people into work, the job-secure public sector is causing mayhem to protect its lop-sided pension system.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
CQC not perfect, but on right track
In her evidence to the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust inquiry (report, 28 November), Kay Sheldon, one of our fellow commissioners, makes criticisms of the Care Quality Commission's management. Her views are not an accurate representation of CQC, its leadership or its culture.
All three of us have been proud to serve under the leadership of Dame Jo Williams. She has led the board with determination, sensitivity, foresight and energy and has been a key driver behind the progress that CQC has made in identifying and tackling poor care. We unreservedly support her ongoing chairmanship.
We are fully confident that we are able to effectively fulfil our governance role. All three of us are experienced board members and we do not recognise Kay's criticisms.
Not every aspect of running a highly complex and multifaceted organisation can run smoothly – CQC has made mistakes, which it has acknowledged and from which it has learned. This is an organisation that is now firmly on the right track and increasingly delivering real benefits to people who use health and care services, with more than 1,400 unannounced inspections last month alone.
Professor Deirdre Kelly
Professor Martin Marshall
Commissioners, Care Quality Commission, London EC1
Fair shares of party finance
Sir Christopher Kelly's inquiry into political party finance has recommended grants to parties based on votes. This would be unsatisfactory, because it would require electors to choose between voting tactically and voting for the party they would like funded. It would also be misleading because it would have to be based on previous election results, five years old and inappropriate for European and local elections.
There is an alternative: returning officers should ask electors to indicate a preference about which parties they want funded for general, for local and for European elections. Electoral maps could be published at ward level, at parliamentary constituency and at Euro-constituency level. Allowing voters to see accurate information of this sort would improve the responsiveness of government, and would also facilitate second-preference tactical voting.
Such publicly conducted opinion polls could provide an accurate and fair basis for the public funding of election campaigns.
Dr H J "Tony" Abrams
Nato leaves Libya in a mess
In the space of a few months we are witness to the mess that is "liberated" Libya ("Revealed: Libya's new reign of terror", 24 November)
All the flim-flam of "humanitarian intervention" from the western powers is exposed. The reality is that "the West" (read capitalism) could not abide the idea of the oil-rich Libya being outside its grasp.
We are witnessing Nato in its new role as a proxy for the United Nations. First, impoverish and denigrate the UN, then "offer" Nato, redundant after the collapse of communism, to "help out".
This gives the armed forces a role, the arms manufacturers can sell their products to either side in conflicts and the voters are diverted from the crisis at home.
The end of the school holidays
In today's Independent (28 November) there are references to more history and more computer technology teaching. The question is asked: "What should be abandoned to make way for these additions?" Education needs to include not only more academic subjects but also "life skills" and physical activity. The school year cannot accommodate anything more. Education needs to be full-time, like work.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Steve Richards' article on Osborne and Plan A (25 November) is perceptive, but I can't agree that in 1983 "a significant proportion of the electorate was starting to feel better off, enough to deliver the Conservatives a landslide". The Tories won in 1983 partly because of success in the Falklands War and partly because the Labour Party were led by Michael Foot, whom no one could imagine as a prime minister.
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire
Eat and drink
As a wandering Brummie, I have lived both "oop north" and "dahn sarf" (letter, 29 November) and in all regions have found a clear understanding of what is food (on a plate or dish) and what is drink (in a glass or cup). Whether or not the substance is liquid is irrelevant as we eat up gravy, custard and soup and drink tea, beer and wine.
Hailsham, East Sussex
Women and non-white writers who are attacked online (Yasmin Alibhia-Brown, 28 November) should comfort themselves that they are scaring a certain type of man that pathetically cowers away from women and people of other races with strong opinions. I urge them to ignore these idiots and continue to express their opinions.
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