Socialist Worker

Pensions: ‘We don’t want to die on our feet at work’

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2208

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is lying in order to attack pensions.

He is trying to sell government plans to raise the retirement age to 66 for men by claiming that life expectancy has risen to 89 for men and to 90 for women.

Even the government’s own Office of National Statistics sets the figure much lower.

Average life expectancy for men born between 2006 and 2008 is around 77, while for women it is around 81.

And this masks big differences that depend on class.

“There are all these myths about life expectancy,” Henry Rajch, a gardener from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, told Socialist Worker.

“But they don’t tell you that manual workers live shorter lives. In parts of Glasgow some manual workers die at around 66. It’s a disgrace.

“A gardener’s life is hard. That’s why we die younger. I feel fit now at 58, but the job’s getting harder and I don’t want to die working.”

Many bosses are pushing for the retirement age to be raised to 70. That would cut life expectancy for low paid workers even further.


John Manson, a GMB union rep who works as a bin driver in Leeds, said, “Manual workers have no chance to enjoy their life when they eventually retire.

“Plans to raise the retirement age are a crushing blow to millions of workers.

“Our routes are getting longer and the council expects us to work an extra two or three hours a week in the heat or the snow.

“A lot of the lads at work are approaching 50 or beyond. They’re all looking forward to their retirement.”

Michael Graham, a postal worker from Glasgow, said that the increased workload and insecurity caused by the threat of privatisation is driving many workers to leave.

“I work on the delivery side – it’s really physically demanding,” said Michael. “We’ve talked about it at work. We don’t see how people can get through to their late fifties, let alone their late sixties.

“Many guys consider early retirement because they just can’t cope – even though they know they will have to get another job.”

The idea of public sector “gold-plated pensions” really is a myth for manual workers.

“I would like to retire soon, and I could on paper,” said Henry. “The problem is that when I hit 60 I will get £95 a week – that’s all I get for working for 35 years. I can’t live on that.

“I would like to take up art. But I won’t have the money.”

Workers spend their lives paying into their pensions and keeping society running, but are now expected to pay for a crisis created by the rich.

“When people say we have to make savings, I say that other things could be cut,” said John.

“The Tories’ plans mean that we’ll pay the price for the mistakes of the bankers. They’re the most well off but they won’t take a hit.”

Henry said that his workmates are talking about striking to defend pensions:

“People are saying we won’t have a choice – fighting back is what we are going to have to do.

“That’s why we need to unite with other workers, other unions and everyone who wants to defend jobs and services.

“If this lot get away with it we will die on our feet at work. We have to stop them.”

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Article information

Tue 29 Jun 2010, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2208
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