Socialist Worker

Make march springboard to stronger action

Issue No. 1906

DO YOU fancy working until you are 72...or even 86? That's the prospect for young workers according to research released last week. Consultants Hewitt, Bacon and Woodrow found that the low level of the state pension and huge cuts in pensions which companies have pushed though have created a poverty time bomb.

Workers who are now 25 have a one in ten chance of having to work until they are 86 if they want to save enough for a decent pension. The average person would probably have to remain in employment until the age of 72. For many people that would mean they never get a penny in pension. One in five workers die before they are 70-and the harder your job and the worse you are paid the more likely you are to die young.

Threats like this are why trade unionists will march in London on Saturday. Millions of workers are being told they have to accept pay cuts or face big reductions in the pension they can expect when they retire. The TUC, which has organised this weekend's protest, says that this is 'the most serious attempt to cut pay and conditions since the Second World War. Employers have already saved £4 billion by abolishing decent pension schemes and replacing them with ones based on stockmarket gambling. The worker takes the risk, the boss's profits rise.'

In 1991 nearly six million workers had 'final salary' schemes where they got a guaranteed pension based on a proportion of their earnings when they retired. That number has fallen by almost half. Another giant threat looms for public sector workers.

The government wants millions of civil servants, teachers, NHS staff and other workers to be forced to work another five years to collect their full pension. Local government workers are already suffering from this attack. From next year rules governing local authority pensions will force workers who are now in their thirties and forties to keep going until they are 65 to get their pension.

If they want to leave at the current retirement age of 60 they must accept a big cut. The government has forced through these cuts in local authority pensions because share prices have fallen and they expect workers to pay for the falling value of pension funds. These same workers were not showered with payouts when share prices were rising.

It's time for action to stop the pensions robbery and to demand the retirement age is not increased. Across most of Europe trade unions have organised mass strikes and general strikes to stop the sort of assaults that are happening now in Britain. Saturday's march should be a springboard for a campaign to get that sort of action.

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Sat 19 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1906
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