Our annual delegate conference last year passed motion A120, committing us to campaign for improvements to the State Pension Scheme.
Britain's biggest pensioner organisation - the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) (to which PCS is affiliated) - has launched a 12-month campaign to mark a century of the state pension and demand that today's payment is increased by more than £40 a week for all in retirement.
An NPC Centenary Booklet is enclosed for your information. Additional copies can be ordered from the NPC (order form enclosed).
We must use this centenary year to put pressure on the government to raise the state pension, for all men and women, above the poverty level of £134 a week and restore its link to earnings as a matter of urgency.
We must take up the cause of the pension pioneers and finish what they started by once and for all ending the fear of poverty in old age.
The PCS is proud to support this campaign and has already made a donation of £2500 to the NPC to support the events due to take place this year. We are also providing practical support where we can during the year and are represented on the Steering Group established to lead the campaign. A joint fringe meeting with the NPC is planned for this year’s ADC.
We will be encouraging Branches to become involved and advertise the regional rallies. The regional events will be published via the NPC, your regional TUC and PCS website as soon as the dates and venues are finalised.
Back in 1898, a number of individual social reformers, backed by the trade union movement of the day, began a campaign to secure a universal state pension.
A decade later, figures such as Rev Francis Herbert Stead - a non-conformist social worker, Charles Booth - a Victorian philanthropist, Margaret Bondfield a leading trade unionist and Edward Cadbury - a successful businessman, were the leaders of a nationwide campaign that had secured the first ever state pension.
The Old Age Pensions Act was passed in August 1908, and on 1 January 1909 the first state pensions of 5 shillings a week were paid at the post office to all men and women on reaching 70 years of age.
Even though the pension was means-tested, it was clearly a tremendous advance in social policy and represented the first time that the state had recognised it had a responsibility to look after those in old age.
The NPC begins the first stage of its year-long campaign to pay tribute to those original pension pioneers and call for an increase in today's state pension, with a website to mark 100 years of the state pension.
Throughout the year there will also be rallies in the same cities where public meetings were held a 100 years ago - Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London - as well as a national petition and a lobby of parliament to be held later in the year.
We owe the original pension pioneers a great debt of gratitude for securing the very first state pension, that sought to end the threat of the workhouse for millions of older people. But a hundred years on we still have over 2m pensioners living below the poverty line and many more struggle to make ends meet. In fact, today's state pension is worth even less in relation to average wages than it was in 1908.
As part of the NPC’s campaign, MPs will be asked to sign. Early Day Motion 658 tabled by Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey, which pays tribute to the pension pioneers and demands the government improves the existing state pension system.
The EDM (currently supported by 60 MP’s) reads:-
EDM 658 – Centenary of the State Pension (Hoey, Kate)
"That this house pays tribute to the pension pioneers who campaigned from 1898 until 1908 to secure the first old age state pension; acknowledges the importance of the state recognizing it has a responsibility to provide a decent income in retirement for all without resort to means-testing; expresses concern that after 100 years the state pension is still significantly below the official poverty level; and calls on the Government to mark the centenary of the state pension in 2008 by raising the basic state pension for all pensioners above the official poverty level and restoring its link with earnings or prices, whichever is the greater."
Branches are asked to approach local MPs to ask them to sign the EDM. You can find out if your MP has signed the EDM on the parliament web site.
A particular concern, as pointed out in Motion A120, is those who do not qualify for the full state pension. Up to 2m workers, who are due to retire before April 6th 2010 could join the ranks of pensioners living in poverty.
Pension Minister Mike O'Brien recently revealed that around 1.8m men and women are expected to retire in the next two years with 30 years or less national insurance (NI) contributions. They will miss out on the government’s plans to reduce to 30 the number of years needed to qualify for a full state pension – they do not come into effect until April 2010. Already 4m, mainly women, pensioners, do not receive a full state pension and have to rely on means-tested benefits in order to get by.
The government's refusal to apply this new rule to existing pensioners and those retiring in the next two years is grossly unfair. Everyone with 30 years’ contributions should be able to get a full state pension, regardless of whether they retire before the 6 April 2010 or after.
I urge all branches to consider how they can support the NPC’s important campaign. Your Regional Committee should be involved with the NPC and its plans, ensure that you are aware of local activities.
For further details, contact Alan Maloney at HQ email@example.com
This was originally published as BB.14/08