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Vigorously defend pensions!

THE STATE pension is so inadequate that many of the over 500 members of the London Freelance Branch who are aged over 60 can't afford to retire. The need to defend state pensions is greater than ever, says Pat Healy, a vice-president of the National Pensioners' Convention, chair of the NUJ Pensioners' Committee and also LFB's own vice-chair.

Pat Healy explains

Pat Healy explains

Only 14 per cent of working journalists are in occupational pension schemes - many of those in the BBC, which has its own pension woes. Private pensions are too expensive, you're unlikely to get your money back. Most of us will continue to rely on the currently pathetic state pension, warns Pat.

A century ago, the state pension was a quarter of the average wage. Its value took a dip in the 1980s when it ceased to be earnings-linked. Now the state pension's a mere 12 per cent of the average wage, and the UK retirement age will rise to 68. Pat predicts we’ ll be working longer for less of a pension. This compares to pensions worth 30 per cent of the average wage in most of the EU, up to 60 per cent in some European countries.

The current £97 per week state pension is just below the official poverty line for pensioners. The government "want you to believe they can't afford to pay decent pensions", says Pat, because they want to use the income from National Insurance (NI) contributions as a slush fund, not specifically for benefits, as was originally intended.

Some staff journalists are forced to retire even if they don't want to - or can't afford to. Our Irish NUJ colleagues have a later retirement age than in the UK. And there is widespread ageism and misrepresentation of older people in the media. For all these reason it's more important than ever to campaign for decent state pensions. Pat reminded us that "older people vote".

The LFB meeting was held as the deadline approached for the BBC to respond to unions on pensions issues. A massive turnout by BBC workers produced a huge majority in favour of strike action over plans to replace the BBC's existing pension scheme with one based on a "fictitious salary" that rises by one per cent a year: see here for updates.

The NUJ 60+ group - organised by the NUJ Pensions Committee - campaigns on legislation affecting pensions and retirement, against ageism, and for older members to get involved in NUJ industrial councils. There are proposals to set up an LFB NUJ60+ branch, or a London regional NUJ60+ branch. For more information, email Donald Harkness or see the NUJ60+ web page.

Last modified: 01 Oct 2010 - © 2010 contributors
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