Unions call for immediate pension increase

Trade unions have today backed a call for an immediate increase in the state pension to £114 per week and to restore the link with earnings by next year.

TUC delegates in Brighton supported a motion saying that although the government’s pension white paper proposed many welcome reforms, it did not go far enough.

Proposed by the GMB union and backed by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Amicus, the motion says that waiting until 2012 to restore the earnings-pensions link will leave millions of pensioners worse off.

“Energy firms wouldn’t wait until 2012 to raise their gas bills, would they?” argued GMB general secretary Paul Kenny.

When the national minimum wage rises again next month to £5.35 a week, it will see the lowest paid workers earn £214 a week. But the basic state pension currently stands at just £84.25 – or £2.10 an hour, something unions say must be addressed urgently.

“Pensions are what stands between an independent and confident retirement or benefits, dependency and fear,” Mr Kenny said.

“The government is at last proposing some seriously overdue changes.they’re very welcome but restoring the link cannot wait until 2012.”

The unions are also opposed to plans to raise the retirement age to 68, something the government insists is necessary to pay for the more generous pension that will arise out of it being linked with earnings, rather than inflation.

But today PCS national president Janice Goodrich insisted a growing economy could “easily afford to provide for today and tomorrow’s pensioners – it is not the means that are lacking but the political will”.

She failed to provide any figures for her argument, but the Communication Workers’ Union claimed that by 2012 the National Insurance fund would have a surplus of £40 billion, which could be used to help fund the state pension.

However, a Treasury spokesman dismissed this suggestion noting that although one part of the government’s finances might be in surplus at any one time, it was rarely waiting around to be spent, being more likely to be used to cover a deficit elsewhere.