You could feel the raw anger over pensions at a demonstration in central London last Saturday.
A group of workers and pensioners, who have lost part or all of their pensions because their employers went into liquidation, demonstrated outside the £3.5 million house owned by Tony Blair in Connaught Square.
“Tony Blair lives in luxury, but some of us are having to sell our houses,” said Barry Tillson who lives near Southend in Essex. He worked at Perivan printers from the age of 15 until the company was declared insolvent two years ago.
“For 39 years I paid into the pension. Now I may get nothing,” he says. “A short while before the company went under it was split into two. The Southend one went under, the London one continues with one of the Southend directors there. But we have no call on the London assets for our pensions.”
Fellow Perivan worker Geoff Katte worked at the firm for 38 years. He is retired and now getting £17 a week, not the £100 he was entitled to expect.
“We’ve been robbed, conned, taken to the cleaners,” he says. “The government tells us to save, and we did all the things you’re supposed to do. The result? Poverty.”
Stan Carpenter was at Perivan for 35 years, and is also on £17 a week. “There are at least 60,000 people in a similar position to us, who have had huge chunks of their pension looted,” he says. “These scandals have forced the government to promise protection in the future — though goodness knows if it will be enough. But in any case we’ll get nothing from that.”
Jean Wade’s husband Bernard worked at ASW steel plant in Sheerness, Kent, for 27 years. Sadly Jean’s husband has died, but instead of the £175 a week widow’s pension she should have received, Jean is getting just £59 a week because the company went under.
“I blame the government,” says Jean. “They have allowed these companies to get away with not funding their pensions properly, so that when it comes to a crisis the money paid in is just stolen from the workforce.
“We demand action, because people are facing real poverty. I have a job in a shop, and could retire in two years. But instead I’ll have to think if I can keep going until I’m 70 because I won’t have enough to live on.
“I had a serious heart problem 13 years ago, which means I can’t manage working full time. I don’t know how I’ll survive.”
Marlene Cheshire and her daughter Claire were on the protest. Marlene’s husband, Dave, is suffering from cancer and has been admitted to a hospice.
Dave, now 63, could have retired at 60 but was asked to stay on by his company, Dexion in Hemel Hempstead. It then went into receivership and as a result he was robbed of his pension.
“I feel I have been lied to and betrayed by the company and by the government,” says Marlene, “This cannot be right.”
Fellow Dexion worker Reg Woollard was due for a pension of £24,000 a year. A few weeks before the company went under he checked to see if his pension was safe. He was told it was guaranteed.
Now that money has gone, with no certainty about how much he will get.
Jill Baxter also worked at Dexion, for 19 years. She has had to retrain as a teacher, but will have little time to build up a decent pension. And now the government is threatening the teachers’ pension scheme.
“Lied to by Labour, deceived by Labour, betrayed by Labour,” read the main banner on Saturday’s protest. These people, from what might be called “Middle England”, are enraged by the government.
All the major parties are agreed that pensions will have to be squeezed in the future and that nothing can be done for these 60,000 victims of the market.
Only Respect stands for justice — for the people who demonstrated on Saturday and for all pensioners.