Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pension reform strikes


There is a high probability that this post will divide opinions. This blogs readership is pretty evenly split between US and UK residents, it is likely that it will mean more to UK readers.

Today has been a national day of protest by many public sector workers, who are protesting about changes to their pension provision. A reported 2 million staff walked out. The country is divided on opinion, in many cases the opinion held depends on if you are employed in the public or private sector. At this point I should remind readers that as I run my own business I am firmly in the private sector, Mrs RJR however as a Physiotherapist employed by the National Health Service is a public sector employee. She is also a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, who voted to strike today.

You may, or may not, be wonder where my opinions fall. I could say that the public sector has excellent pension provision in comparison to mine. I could argue that the country needs to sort out its finances and can't afford to pay pensions at the current rate. I could also argue we are all living longer and therefore pensions paying out longer, cant be as big. But I am not going to! To be honest I think that the government is really trying to divide the nations opinion and turn the private sector against the public sector by telling a one sided story.

There is a popular misconception that the Public sector all get gold plated pensions handed free on a plate. In Mrs RJR's case she has paid a high percentage of her salary into a works pension fund since she started work 20 years ago. If I had paid as much into a private pension fund, I too would have a good pension. When she started working as a Physio she was offered specific pension provision, relating to age, value and contributions. Due to the physical nature of her job, moving people, in many cases taking large proportions of their weight, the retirement age for a Physio's was set at 55. 

3 years ago all National Health workers underwent a pension review and compromises by staff were made in order to meet changing funding levels. These changes were to ensure the fund would be sufficient to sustain its members. Today's action is to protest at further changes to provisions. These include raising the retirement age from 55 to 67, an increase in contributions by a further 3% and a considerable reduction to the pension to be paid. These changes apply to many public sector workers including teachers, civil servants, nurses and many more.

It is easy to say as someone in the private sector " I wish I could retire at 55" or "I wish I could get a pension equivalent to my average working salary" but I remind you of my earlier comment. If I had contributed large amounts to a pension, as she has, then I too could have had such a pension. This discussion is not about feelings of being bitter, because the public sector have better pensions than me. My situation is purely because of my financial planning, or lack of. The discussion is more about an employer, in this case the government, moving the goal posts and making sweeping changes to a pension plan. The new deal is not what public sector workers signed up for.

The argument that the country cant afford it, is weak, when you consider that the Physio's pension pot is in surplus. The ageing population argument is hard to justify, when youth unemployment is running at a record high. Will these youth ever get a job if old folk never retire?

The Government argue that what is on offer is fair. As a private sector worker with poor pension provision, as a result of personal choices, I can't see how what the public sector is being offered is anything like fair.

Just to add insult to injury, having been subject to a pay freeze for 3 years, yesterday on the eve of the industrial action, the government announced that public sector pay increases will be capped at 1% until 2013. This is not subject to negotiation or talks.

In my opinion, what is happening to public sector employees is anything but fair. It amounts to a 3% tax that will help the government balance its books. Of course they need to balance the books, especially as they have just sold the bank they bailed out to the tune of £1.4billion for a fantastic price of £750 million. Perhaps they need to have a think about how they are doing it ! 



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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Model Boats


Yesterday Ruth and I spent the morning at the Etherow Model Boat Club's lake, with my Dad. I have for some years been a keen model maker, admittedly it has been some months since I ventured down the to my workbench in the shed at the bottom of the garden! My usual model making is Railway related, ranging  from making layouts made from shop bought 1:160 scale trains, through to hand making my own trains in 1:24th scale. In fact my first steps into using blogger came when I set up RJR Models blog but for the last few months I have lost the model making bug.

Typically I made things like these below. On the left a 1:87 scale US themed layout or on the right a collection of hand made 1:24 scale locomotives and coaches for in my garden..

  

With the passing of my Mum I have been spending more time with Dad and it seemed a logical and fun thing to share our enjoyment of model making. So I have brought one of his large scale boats home to look after and become a member of the Etherow Model Boat Club with him. He has been an active member there for some time, both he and Mum have served on the clubs committee. It was nice to learn that the club plans to name a a yacht racing trophy after Mum, "The Velda Teal Cup" Dad also runs the club blog/website with a little help when required from me.

Having been to Etherow each Saturday since Mums passing, yesterday was our first time putting boats in the water. I took Ruth, my youngest along and we shared my new captains role with the boat we now call ours.


Dad started ofg sailing one of his small yachts. While the two of them concentrated I got out the camera.


After a while the time seemed right and Dad went and got Mums boat from the car and we all had a go of that. It is a lovely boat that he has spent months making and Mum used to spend hours sailing. Pepe the dog enjoyed sitting watching too.


Finally the boats got put away and we went for a stroll round the park, 3 generations and the dog. Although Pepe was not too keen on walking AWAY from the parks Cafe..




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Friday, 11 November 2011

11 11 11

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon






Jake and Joanne reading the inscription at Agny (Pas de Calais, France) Military Cemetery

We went to visit the grave of Joanne's Great Grandfather
Corporal William Carrington
9th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps
Died Friday 2nd June 1916


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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Auschwitz

Today's blog is a guest post from Jake my 15 year old son........


On October 14th, I went on a school history trip to the city of Krakow (Crack-oov) in Poland. During the course of the 4 day trip, my schoolmates and I visited Krakow old town, The Galicia Jewish Museum, Schindler's Factory, Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau. My dad asked me to do a guest post here on his blog about my trip, so here it is!

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and I took over 300 photos, so rather than writing a 300,000 word essay about the trip, I'll post some of the main pictures here, and write a line or two saying what each is a picture of. Due to limitations on the amount of pictures that can be added to one post, I have only included pictures from Auschwitz, both the first camp and Birkenau. And of course I'll be happy to answer any questions in the comments for this post.


The famous sign over the entrance to Auschwitz 1, which reads 'ALBEIT MACHT FREI', which means 'Work will make you free'. This of course was not true at Auschwitz, and, as the commandant of the camp would tell new arrivals, the only way out was through the chimney of the crematorium. Compared to other camps of its type, Auschwitz had an incredibly low escape record.



The redbrick barrack buildings in the main camp. The weather on the day of our visit was very good, which added to the eeriness of the camp, as normally one would imagine such a place to be rainy and grim.


This shows the difference in size between Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau. Auschwitz - Birkenau was created when the complex was incorporated into the Nazi 'Final Solution', the systematic extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and other groups the Nazis deemed 'undermenchen' or 'sub-human'.


Zyklon B crystals. These would be thrown into the gas chambers through holes in the ceiling, and would react with air to form poisonous hydrogen cyanide.



In one of the barracks there was an exhibition about the exploitation of the people sent to Auschwitz. There were piles of shoes, eyeglasses, prosthetic limbs, and even human hair. This was one of the most harrowing parts of the whole trip.


The wall where executions were carried out. People would be tried by the Gestapo, normally for conspiracy, and then taken outside and shot against this wall. One officer personally executed 25,000 people. That's not a typo. 25 thousand people. The youngest person to be executed was a nine year old Polish girl.


The inside of the gas chamber at Auschwitz 1.


This is the train line into Auschwitz Birkenau.The scene at Auschwitz in the film Schindler's List was shot here on the outside of the camp, in a mirror image set of the inside.


One of the carriages used to bring people into Auschwitz Birkenau. One of these carriages would sometimes hold up to 400 people. On this platform people would be separated into two categories: those who could work, and those who couldn't. Those who could would be taken away and registered into the camp, and those who couldn't would be straight away taken to the gas chambers. This group automatically included  children under 14, young mothers, the sick, and people over 50.



The remains of wooden barracks at Auschwitz Birkenau. One of these barracks would sometimes house 1200 people. All that remains are the brick chimneys, which were never used to heat the barracks.


The inside of a barrack. The bunks that can be seen on the left would hold 8 people, so the 'beds' that can be seen would hold in total 48 people, 3 rows each with two sections.


The ruins of one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz - Birkenau. The Nazis destroyed the gas chambers in January 1945 when it was obvious that the war was lost, in an attempt to cover up their crimes.


The memorial at Auschwitz - Birkenau. There were several plaques each in a different language. The inscription reads:

"For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz - Birkenau 1940 - 1945"


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