ON WEDNESDAY the Tory Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, cynically used the fact that parliament was closing down for the holidays to announce that 7 million people in their late 30s and early 40s will have to wait until they are 68 before they can claim their state pension.
This decision means that the age at which a state pension can be claimed will increase from 67 to 68 in the years 2037 and 2039. This is fully seven years before the original proposals to steadily increase retirement age. Gauke insisted that this increase was only the implementation of the findings of a review carried out by John Cridland which was published in March and which recommended an accelerated increase in the state retirement age in order to save money.
This is scarcely a surprising result given that Cridland is a former director of the bosses’ organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The capitalist class have always seen workers as a class to be exploited, whose value lies in their ability to work and produce profits for the bosses.
When, through old age or infirmity, they are no longer productive they become a useless drain on capitalism. This was spelled out by the Cridland review which talked of state pensions becoming ‘unsustainable’ as people were committing the crime of living longer.
Instead Cridland and the Tories have advanced the alternative – make people work till they drop, then the state won’t have to pay out any pensions at all and all the money saved can be used to bail-out the bankers.
As for life expectancy continuing to increase this was effectively demolished just the day before Gauke sprung his surprise announcement. In an authoritative report leading health expert, Sir Michael Marmot, said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by the fact that rising rates of life expectancy are ‘grinding to a halt’ in England.
Significantly, he added that it was ‘entirely possible’ that austerity cuts are to blame, noting that they have coincided with austerity programmes that have led to ‘miserly’ health and social care spending.
There is no doubt about it. The steady increase in life expectancy over the past decades is attributable to the advances in medicine and social care freely accessible to everyone via the welfare state and the NHS. This has been coupled with the improvements in working conditions fought for by the trade unions.
It is not surprising that Marmot found that the rate of increase in life expectancy in the country has nearly halved since 2010 when the Tories came to power and launched savage austerity cuts on the NHS and social care spending.
Not content with driving down life expectancy the Tories now want to make sure that those who in 20 years will be reaching retirement age are forced to carry on regardless until they die, thus relieving the capitalist state of the ‘burden’ of state pensions.
The GMB National Pensions Organiser, Keir Greenaway, summed it up saying: ‘This is a double bite of austerity – workers are expected to work longer and could now be at risk of dying sooner. GMB sees this as a complete disregard for working people from an out of touch government – and a Cabinet of millionaires who will never know what it is like to have to rely on a state pension.’
Greenaway added: ‘This week’s report showing a stall in life expectancy rises since the Conservatives took power in 2010 should alarm us all. They cannot be trusted to bring stability in retirement for working people.’
This begs the question what will the trade unions do about a Tory government that is deliberately setting out to destroy the lives and future for every worker and young person in the country. Just condemning the Tories as being ‘out of touch’ is not enough, they must be thrown out.
The trade unions must take action by organising a general strike to bring them down immediately and advance to a workers’ government and a socialist society. If capitalism cannot sustain human life and dignity for workers then it must be overthrown by socialist revolution. This means building the revolutionary leadership of the WRP to lead this fight to take power, join today.