Plans to increase the state pension age to 68 should be a red line issue in any forthcoming general election.
That was the message from speakers at Siptu’s biennial national conference, which is being held in Cork City Hall.
Some 10% of all motions submitted by members of the trade union refer to the issue of the pension age, calling for the age to be restored to 65. The planned increase, which is due to come into effect by 2028, was harshly criticised by speakers, who urged members to raise it on the doorsteps when it comes to political canvassing ahead of the upcoming general election.
Siptu member John James McLoughlin told the conference they should be prepared to take to the streets to resist the policy, a call which drew huge applause from those in attendance.
“If we have to take to the streets, we will do that and we will let the government know,” he said.
Siptu general secretary Joe O’Flynn said it was a clear message from the conference that this is a critical issue.
“We have a general election coming up in a few months — we need to get a commitment that this is going to be changed and that they will respect the right of workers to retire and receive the pension they are entitled to,” he said.
Mary O’Sullivan, a member of Siptu’s National Executive Council, said the impact of such policies will be felt for decades to come and accused the government of “scaremongering” on the matter, while Seamus Dillon, also of the National Executive Council, said that it has resulted in many workers living “on a pittance” and being entirely reliant on savings while they await access to their pensions.
A motion submitted by Siptu’s retired members Committee noted that by 2028, “Ireland will have one of the highest pension ages across advanced industrialised countries”.
“Already, many workers experience unnecessary hardship when forced to retire at 65 and they have to wait a year until their entitlement to the State pension a year later. This will only get worse when the age of entitlement increases,” they added.
Frustrated members discussed their own experiences, many outlining their fears of retiring at 65 but not being able to access their pension, as well as benefits such as fuel allowances and free travel.
Speakers from Siptu’s National Executive Council described the policy as “short-sighted and facile” and said that it is unfair on the “growing numbers who are solely dependent on the state pension”.