Socialist Worker

Pensions round-up

Issue No. 1980

Millions of pensioners abandoned

It's not just tomorrow’s pensioners that Turner savaged. Pensioners groups hit out as the full details became clear.

Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation — the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) — said Turner had ignored the needs of today’s 11 million older people.

 In the 1,000-page report Lord Turner makes only three recommendations that would affect today’s pensioners:

  • Linking the basic state pension to earnings in 2010.
  • Keeping the means-tested pension credit but freezing the payments for those with modest savings.
  • Paying a universal state pension to those aged 75 and over without saying when it should be introduced.

The NPC points out that Turner’s failure to recommend immediately raising the basic state pension, and delaying linking it to earnings until 2010, is offering today’s pensioners a mere £1.36 a week more than they will already receive.

 Joe Harris, NPC general secretary, said, “One in five older people live below the official poverty line and the majority of them are women. 

“Pensioners want the basic state pension raised immediately to the level of the means-tested pension credit of £109.45 a week and then linked to earnings.

“It is in the interests of the entire population that these modest improvements are paid for out of the national insurance fund and its healthy surplus of £34.6 billions.”

Millions of pensioners abandoned

The national executive of the lecturers union Natfhe voted 26-14 last week to reject the recent agreement on public sector pensions because it would only protect the right to retire at 60 for existing staff, with new staff having to work till they are 65.

Faced with the threat of a public sector general strike, the government had made this concession from their original demand that we all work till 65. Unfortunately, many union leaders thought that this was as much as we could get and recommended acceptance.

The Natfhe executive was unconvinced by this argument. It believed that the government was retreating on the issue and could have been pushed further by the power of a united front of public sector trade unions.

The offer from government would have meant a two-tier workforce that would have broken the solidarity between generations upon which the concept of pensions if based.

We will need the maximum unity between young and old if we are to defend our right to retire while we still have a chance to enjoy it. We hope that private sector workers demand parity with us, which means a decent retirement age for all.

We will have a difficult job ahead of us trying to persuade the NUT, Unison and PCS unions to reverse their decisions to accept the agreement and, no doubt, the government will exclude Natfhe from further negotiations on pensions.

This vote restarts the campaign to place the needs of retired workers above the greed of big business.

Steve Cushion and Jane Hardy, Natfhe national executive committee (both in personal capacity)

Fighting for future workers

Almost 6,000 British Gas engineers are set to strike on Monday of next week in a dispute the goes to the heart of the battle to defend pensions.

The GMB union members voted for strikes to defend the pensions of those who come after them. “It’s about the young who are yet to come into work and about the unemployed who may find work in the industry,” says a GMB spokesperson.

The engineers voted to keep their pension scheme open and have paid an extra 1 percent contribution. Bosses are now reneging on that.

In fighting for the next generation of workers — as workers on Network Rail have done successfully — the gas engineers are setting an example for every union.

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