Age Action joined the SIPTU led coalition of non-governmental organisations for the launch of the STOP67 campaign in Dublin today (Thursday, 23rd January) which aims to halt the increase of the state pension age for workers to 67 from next year in order to address inequalities in the pension system.
Speaking at the formal campaign launch in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Kildare Street, Dublin, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley, said: “STOP67 is the SIPTU campaign to stop the increase of the state pension age to 67 on 1st January, 2021.
“SIPTU representatives are not surprised this is a major general election issue. We have been hearing from our members since the abolition of the transitional pension scheme in 2014 about the difficulties that the retirement gap has been causing for workers. This includes the absolute indignity of people coming up to 65 years of age who are expecting to get their pension and having to sign on the dole.”
National Women’s Council of Ireland Director, Orla O’Connor, said: “This is a core issue for women. Women rely on the state pension for the vast majority of their income in older age. So, anything that impacts on state pensions disproportionally impacts on women.”
Age Action Chief Executive, Paddy Connolly, said: “This campaign is not only about stopping the rise of the pension age to 67 but also the creation of a stakeholder forum which will consider issues such as finances, age discrimination and others that effect people in their retirement.”
Active Retirement Ireland chief executive, Maureen Kavanagh, said: “Ireland has the youngest population but the highest prospective retirement age in the EU. We are not under the demographic pressure of other countries. Retirement is a great part of life but it has to be voluntary, flexible and appropriate. We can’t force people out of a job that they love, or to stay in their job.”
SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to make clear their position on the pensions issue.
He added: “All the other political parties are supporting the ‘STOP67’ campaign. The big two parties must make their position clear.”
There has been a disjointed and poor approach to pension and retirement planning since 2014. Age Action believes that the next Government needs to review the whole area of pension policy which is why it is a key priority area in our Election 2020 manifesto, in partnership with Active Reitrement Ireland. The STOP67 coalition is calling for a stakeholder forum to be established by the next Government to ensure that there is meaningful consultation with people who are going to be affected.
Successive policy changes in the area of pensions and retirement have been introduced across the lifetime of the last Government without adequate consultation and planning which has resulted in gaps and yet more anomalies between policies, often from within the same Government department. Examples of such anomilies include;
- People forced to retire before 66 have to claim unemployment payments through Jobseekers Benefit, even though they have worked and paid taxes all their lives. Being forced on to unemployment payments at the age of 65, rather than receive a (transition) pension, which was abolised in 2014 when the pension age rose from 65 to 66, means a loss of nearly €2,400* a year (and up to €7,000 for a couple). This is a massive cut in living standards.
- The Total Contribution Approach 2012 (TCA2012) was brought in to remedy the unintended and disproportionate impact of changes to the pension calculation rate bands in September 2012, especially on women. Payments were made back to 31 March 2018, still today leaving a gap of 5 years and 6 months in the take home pension of those effected by this.
- The TCA2012 introduced 20 years of Home Caring credits and 10 years of credits for 'other' reasons such as unemployment etc. Together, there is a maximum cap of 20 years of credits. This has created the unnecessary division between those not in work for caring purposes and those on unemployment, studying or working abroad. The total 20 year cap on all credits also penalises those who were unable to get back into the workplace and who retrained or were unemployed etc. after 20 years at home with their families.
Putting Older People on the Agenda of Election 2020
Paddy Connolly said "It has taken a General Election for the voices of people to be heard on issues concerning us as we get older. It is good to see hopeful TDs listen to and respond to the needs of people. Policy development and implementation has to enable the participation of people in a meaningful way. What we are seeing through the pension focus is that mistakes were made. Mistakes cost money and votes. A Senior Minister for Older People, research on the cost of ageing to enable evidenced based policy and a Commissioner for Ageing would go some way to make sure the same mistakes are not made in the next Government."