Raising pension age would be Fine Gael’s ‘political death warrant’, says Siptu

Union takes hard line at annual conference where delegates back call to ‘put FG on notice’

Siptu delegates at the annual conference were told that the union’s membership would endeavour to punish politicians who sought to raise the age to 67.

Siptu’s deputy general secretary has said any attempt by Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphries to raise the pension age to 67 would amount to signing the party’s “political death warrant”.

Speaking on the first day of the union’s conference in Sligo, Ethel Buckley said Siptu had played a key role in forcing an “epic U-turn” by the Government on the pensions issue. And she said the union’s membership would endeavour to punish politicians who sought to raise the age to 67.

Ms Humphries last month described the current pension age of 66 as “not sustainable” after members of the Oireachtas joint committee on social protection suggested that it should remain unchanged. The Pensions Commission had recommended that the age be increased to 67 by 2031 and 68 by 2039.

“Let us be crystal clear at this conference here today and say to Minister Heather Humphreys our union . . . is putting you and your party on notice. If you cast aside all the evidence, if you ignore all the opposition, if you scorn the public outcry and increase the pension age to 67, you will be signing your party’s political death warrant and Siptu members will make sure of that!”


Delegates subsequently adopted motions opposing the raising of the qualification age, calling for a campaign to ensure that workers in “construction and similar heavy labour-intensive industries” are allowed to retire at 65 and urging a sufficient rise in the current pension rate to protect older people from escalating inflation.

Right to organise

A motion expressing support for frontline workers in the pandemic was also passed. And Siptu general secretary Joe Cunningham paid tribute to those who had “put their lives on the line” in the service of the wider community.

Ms Buckley described the right to organise in the workplace as “the most critical political-industrial issue facing trade unionists in this country today” and said Siptu will press for legislation.

“Tackling this long-standing issue calls for nothing less than a new model of trade unionism . . . because without the right to organise, there is no right to collective bargaining,” she said. “We have a draft EU directive that would require the government to put forward specific policies to ensure that 70 per cent of all workers enjoy collective bargaining coverage.”

Recent polls had suggested widespread public support for a requirement that employers recognise unions in their workplace (74 per cent) and an eagerness on the part of 44 per cent of young workers to join a union if they were allowed to, she said.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times