Unions and a rising retirement age

 

Sir, – Cantillon calls on unions, through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, “to look constructively” at what working beyond traditional retirement age might look like (Business, June 5th).

Congress actively contributed to the Workplace Relations Commission’s code of practice on longer working and welcomed the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s retirement and fixed-term contract guidelines, seeing both as positive developments for those workers willing and able to work into their late 60s.

However, Congress has strong concerns for workers unfit or financially compelled to continue working beyond 65 years as a result of increases in the State pension age to 66 in 2014, 67 years in 2021 and to 68 years in 2028.

Workers in manual occupations are highly unlikely to be physically capable of working in their trade in old age.

The two options the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have put forward for these people are to claim Jobseeker’s Benefit, at €45 per week lower than the pension rate, or to look for alternative employment.

Anyone who has travelled to America will be familiar with the sight of older people packing groceries and waiting tables.

They are not doing this out of a desire to remain connected to the labour market. It is purely financial necessity.

Unlike Ireland, pension policy in some European countries recognise the young age at which manual workers enter employment, compared to college-educated professions, and who are less likely to be physically capable of extending their working lives.

For example, in 2014, Germany lowered the pension age by four years, to 63 years, for workers who had started working straight out of school and had paid social insurance every year since.

Similarly, the programme for government of the new Italian coalition pledges to allow people to draw the state pension once the sum of their age and years of contribution is equal to 100.

While increases in the pension age are taking place in many countries, Ireland is currently on course to have the highest pension age in the OECD in 2028. Yet we currently have the second lowest pensioner to worker dependency ratio in the EU27. We are going too far, too fast.

In the ongoing consultation on reform of the contributory state pension, Congress will be calling on Government to reverse its decision to implement increases to the pension age and commit to engagement with the trade union movement on steps to address the challenges of population ageing and the financial sustainability of the pension system. – Yours, etc,

Dr LAURA BAMBRICK,

Social Policy Officer,

Irish Congress

of Trade Unions,

Parnell Square,

Dublin 1.