June 2016        

Retire alive at sixty-five

Jimmy Doran

Since the global financial crash, many savage cuts have been forced on working people. Some have received plenty of publicity; others have slipped through relatively unnoticed.
     The increase from 65 to 68 in the qualifying age for the state pension is one of these, which will have a catastrophic effect on the working poor as they get older and should be looking forward to a few years’ retirement after a lifetime of toil.
     This is another attack on the working class and a transfer of wealth from the most vulnerable in society to the wealthiest. It will have the greatest impact on lower-paid workers, as they will have had little or no surplus income during their working lives to enable them to invest in a private pension scheme. It’s very unlikely that their employers would have any scheme for their benefit either.
     It will disproportionately affect women, immigrants, disabled workers, Travellers, and all the other groups that fill up the ranks of low-paid, unskilled, part-time and precarious employments.
     The working class are living too long, and they are a burden to the capitalist class unless they are working, so the plan is to keep them at it as long as possible.
     This adds hugely to stress and the general ill-health of lower-paid workers, as they often fill the heaviest manual labouring jobs, on farms, building sites, and factories. These jobs are hard enough when you are young, but at sixty-eight it’s next to a death sentence, and most certainly contribute to ill-health and possible premature death.
     As the saying goes, “Never waste a good recession,” and the EU has not missed an opportunity to implement its neo-liberal plans during the most recent bust cycle on their economic merry-go-round. The EU Commission has been the main instigator since 2008 of this policy of increasing the retirement age to sixty-eight throughout the EU. It slashes the cost of social welfare and frees up more public money to improve infrastructure so that business can get on more easily with the task of making ever more profits. It will increase the supply of labour as well, which is always a good way of keeping workers on their toes and insecure in their jobs. An insecure work force is an obedient work force.
     On the other hand, the top earners and the 1 per cent will have been investing huge amounts of their surplus incomes, tax-free, in private pension funds and investing in many more of the tax incentive schemes or loopholes to enable them to retire whenever they like, with a massive pension pot, to enjoy a life of luxury and relaxation.
     They will live much longer than the working class, as they will have enjoyed the fruits of their wealth throughout their lives: no poor diet, housing, or health, with only the best that money can buy. And when they do die they will leave the rest of the wealth to the kids to continue on a life of privilege as their fathers did before them.
     Despite what they like to tell us, most wealth is inherited, not made through hard work—well, at least not their hard work, but the hard work that will be carried out by you and me until we have one foot in the grave at sixty-eight years of age.
     The trade unions, the communities and all of us on the left need to get mobilised on this issue now as the full brunt of the cut comes into force. If they get away with sixty-eight it will not stop there: it will rise again. It is something that will affect all workers, so we have common cause in this. And it is something that if we unite on we can win.
     We’ve seen the progress that has been made on water charges through the united efforts of the Right2Water campaign. As we near victory on water we have to build on that momentum with the new-found confidence that it has given ordinary working people in a new campaign and win back what has been taken off us during the most recent bust.
     Just as we have a right to water, we have a right to “Retire Alive at 65,” because 68 is far too late.
     Remember that people over 55 are the section that are most likely to vote, so there will be plenty of support for this, and, need I say, votes; so our gombeen politicians will listen if it is perceived as a threat to their position of privilege.
     We need to start this conversation in our homes, work-places, social clubs and trade unions to continue the fight back against these attacks on our class.
     Remember that in 2008 we had a national pension reserve fund of €27 billion; now all we have is an odious debt burden forced on us by our “friends” in the EU to pay off the private gambling debts of bankers and speculators.
     We have nothing to lose but our chains.

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