The Turner report on pensions has unleashed a key battle in British politics.
Turner said the state pension age for men and women should rise to 66 by 2030, to 67 by 2040 and to 68 by 2050. Further increases, to 69 and beyond, are possible if average life expectancy rises.
These proposals have created a lot of anger among working people. Mary Smith, a hospital cleaner from London, says, “I work for a private firm which gives us absolutely nothing above the legal minimum benefits.
“It is hard work, with people forced to cover for staff cuts. I can’t really imagine doing it when I’m 65, the thought of going on to 66 or 67 or even later is just terrible.
“People who talk about going on after 65 should try doing a hard manual job.
“My mother died at 63, her mother died when she was 60. Am I looking at a life which ends before I collect a pension?
“I also worry about whether people working longer will mean fewer jobs for youngsters.”
Brian Hollins, a construction worker from Manchester, says, “It will be the people in the worst jobs who get hit hardest. In the modern world you don’t slip into an easier job as you get older.
“For lots of us there’s no chance of working to 67 or 68 so we’ll be booted out and live on poverty benefits.”
A study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for the Financial Times this week confirmed that for decades it would be the rich that would benefit from the Turner “reforms”.
It showed that the low paid would gain nothing while also working longer.
Trade unions face a huge challenge to focus the fight against Turner.
It’s worrying that many union leaders, while opposing the rise in the retirement age, also had warm words for Turner’s approach.
Paul Kenny, the GMB union acting general secretary, was right when he said, “The judgment of the GMB congress 2005 is that with average life expectancy for men in Glasgow of 69.3 years and for men in Kensington & Chelsea of 80.8 years, a uniform, compulsory pension age of 67 is simply not acceptable.
“There is no way that the GMB will go along with raising the state pension age to 67. The GMB will actively campaign against this proposal.”
With further attacks on public sector pensions, particularly in local government, as well as the rise in the state pension age, those words need to be turned into action across the whole union movement.