New survey shows public more willing to take action over pensions

Seven in ten voters would take some form of action if their pension contributions were to increase while promising lower returns, writes Neil Foster.

The government are with the one per cent. Again

By Neil Foster of Progressive Polling

Seven in ten voters would take some form of action if their pension contributions were to increase while promising lower returns.

The findings from Survation in a public opinion poll commissioned by Unite shows that of those taking action 40% would opt for lawful industrial action, 5% would opt for legal action and 46% would want to leave the scheme outright.

The importance of pensions is also illustrated by several poll findings.

Survation show that 60% believe a pension is the most important benefit an employer can offer. This is considerably well ahead of flexible working (12%), health insurance (8%) and a bonus (7%).

A YouGov survey (pdf) from November 15th revealed 36% viewed pensions to be the “most important issue facing you or your family right now”, second only to the economy.

Given the importance of pensions to people, the issue of trust becomes increasingly critical in forming settled opinions. Survation’s poll lays bare the lack of public confidence and trust in the government.

A staggering 99% of voters don’t ‘fully trust’ ministers on pension affordability. In fact the government is one of the least trusted bodies to provide accurate information on the topic at all.

In stark contrast trade unions topped the opinion poll as the public’s most trusted source of accurate information at 33% – three and a half times more trusted than ministers (9%). Also behind unions in terms of trust on accuracy over pension affordability are think tanks (19%), newspapers and TV (13%) and business leaders (13%).

This suggests the government will struggle to convince the wider electorate of its central argument and justification of pension changes.

That trade unions are so much trusted on this topic shouldn’t be an entire surprise to poll watchers. Ipsos Mori’s ‘Veracity Index’ (pdf) has seen unions consistently outpoll governments in trustworthiness since the survey began in 1983.

Trade unions have also been seen as more ‘truthful’ than business leaders for 11 consecutive years and have outpolled journalists since 1993.

Add the fact the second most trusted profession of all is teachers (81%) and that this profession has overwhelmingly backed industrial action, then unions have a real opportunity to establish facts and tackle myths.

For example today’s Survation poll shows how vulnerable the government is when people are presented with the information.

For example fewer than 1 in 12 (8%) would describe a £6,000 a year average public sector pension as ‘gold-plated’ – a claim that has repeatedly made by Conservative-aligned newspapers and politicians. Instead nearly 3 in 4 (74%) believe the government’s pension proposals to reduce pensions would increase pensioner poverty in years to come.

The findings also show a huge dissatisfaction that those in well-paid positions are being asked to contribute too little to economic recovery, while those with the least are being made to contribute too much.

Eighty six per cent of the public believe chief executives of organisations are not “making enough personal sacrifices to help the economy during the downturn”. There is a clear mismatch when compared to those likely to take some form of action on November 30th – just 17% believe teachers and refuse collectors should make further sacrifices with just 9% thinking the same for nurses.

The coalition government should be wincing at the news energy minister Charles Hendry has recently bought a 20-bedroom castle outside of his constituency. This poll conducted prior to this news shows 78% believe cabinet ministers have not made sufficient sacrifices.

In conclusion, trade unionists and campaigners should take some heart from the fact they are much more trusted than the media and politicians dare admit. In the coming days the more frontline workers who are able to take on the government’s myths with objective facts the better.

There is a hardening mood across the country that the ‘little guy’ is already picking up too much of the bill for a crisis caused by others. There are worries the future people plan for and expect now looks increasingly bleak.

If the unions can successfully tap into this mood and highlight the unfairness of proposals and present alternatives, then they have an opportunity to win wider public support.

See also:

More evidence Gideon’s savage attack on public sector pensions will hit women hardestNigel Stanley, November 21st 2011

Hutton repeats his big fat lie on public sector pensionsAlex Hern, November 4th 2011

Hutton should read his pensions report again before leaping to Cameron’s rescueMichael Burke, September 16th 2011

Don’t buy the right-wing spin: Public sector pension costs set to fallDaniel Elton, September 15th 2011

Danny Alexander repeats the ‘big lie’ that pension reform needed to stop spiralling costsDaniel Elton, July 28th 2011

  • Anonymous

    So not a peep for the poor buggers in the private sector?

    Increase contributions in the form of tax, to pay for the pensions of the state sector, to pay for their taxes too (where does their gross salary come from), and lower services.

    What the idiots in the Unions don’t realise is that their increased contributions do not affect the liabilities of the state to pay their 1,300 bn pension black hole. It’s money that is going to go straight out to past employees. When its their turn to take the money out there won’t be any.

    Far better to get their money out, get it invested and earn compound interest, than to trust the state.

    After all, people with a state pension would have been over 4 times better off with their money in the risky FTSE, rather than the government Ponzi.

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  • Blarg1987

    In all fairness the privae sector in some areas did threaten and do strike action when there pensions were being threatened and Unions are there to protect their members first not all of society first as to have something for nothing is a litle bit unfair.

    The private sector should have better pensions which is down to people in the private sector writing to their MP and brining it up such as will they vote through employees of plc’s will have the same pension rights as the non executive of the company that is nominated by shareholders?

    Some pesnions schemes are as you say ponzi schemes others are self funded whereby the funds buy stocks, shares, property and are invested in the UK economy.

    The goverment should reintroduce taxrelief of pensions witht eh provision money must be invested in the uK only and be paid to everyone in the company below directors and board members this will increase private sector privision and put more money in the local economy stimulating growth.

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  • Anonymous

    The problem is that the people who fund the public sector aren’t represented in the talks. Politicians pensions come from the private sector since they are in the public sector.

    The problem is that if I haven’t been involved in the decision, I don’t feel any responsibility for paying out for the mess.

    If you think otherwise, publish your credit card details here, and pay the resulting bill with joy in your heart after the crooks have used it.

    Some pesnions schemes are as you say ponzi schemes others are self funded whereby the funds buy stocks, shares, property and are invested in the UK economy.

    Civil service – ponzi
    State pension – ponzi
    State second pension – ponzi.

    Now for the public sector ‘fully funded’ schemes, will the unions sign up for no guarantees? I doubt it, they have on average a 50% black hole.

    At the end of the day, the private sector who ultimately pays the bill, is going to get a low service for a very high price, and they will be force to take it.

    Remember, if your NI had gone into the FTSE, and you were a median worker (26K a year), you would have had a pension of 21K a year, indexed linked to RPI, joint life. Instead you get 5K.

    That is the extent of the government fraud. Now they are cutting even that. 15% for the change to CPI. 5% for each year the retirement age is raised. Even that is unaffordable.

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  • jaydeepee

    So, what are the private sector doing about their poor pension provision? Nothing. Shut up fucking moaning if you’re not prepared to do something about it. Also, you choose to ‘take it’, I don’t.