Socialist Worker

They want to turn the clock back 50 years

Issue No. 1935a

THE ATTACKS on pensions are part of the neo-liberal assault.

Anything that gets in the way of profit is under attack. So state provision comes under attack, companies cut occupational pensions and then demand the government slashes the pensions bill for the public sector.

For the employer, pensions are wasted money. Workers are of no further use once they are too old to make money for a firm.

Pensions are paid only because workers have fought for them as part of their overall wages and benefits package. The government’s pension proposals are a crude attempt to turn the clock back to a time when workers died when they were still in a job or soon after retirement and therefore hardly collected any pension.

A baby boy born in 1900 could expect to live to 56. The average worker died at 48. It wasn’t therefore a huge step for prime minister Lloyd George to introduce pensions for people over 70.

In the 1950s most employees were manual workers. Half of them were dead within three or four years of retirement—if they lasted long enough to collect their pension at all. The challenge now is for workers to stop the attempt to move back towards this situation.

One fact that should encourage everyone to fight is that bosses are not facing any cuts in their own pensions. A study by Labour Research last year showed that 255 directors of FTSE 100 firms have already built up entitlements that will pay them pensions of over £100,000 a year. A fifth of the top 255 would get £300,000 or more a year if they retired immediately.

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Fri 21 Jan 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1935a
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