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CWU Retired Members




The Retired Members' Fringe meeting got off to a late start due to General Conference running over in order to hear from Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Allan Trotter chaired the meeting and introduced Tony Kearns the Senior Deputy General Secretary who said that through the RMAC the union is defending the Triple Lock for State Pension increases, defending the Basic State Pension, defending Retired Members and defending all workers for their future as pensioners.

He said the union always woks closely with the NPC to support them in their campaigns to protect pensioner issues.

Continuing, Tony said it is the responsibility of the states do society to take care of its most vulnerable people but their Tory government does not do that. It is happy to look after millionaires and global companies moving benefits from disabled people. And they will keep coming back for more, all in the dogmatic drive for austerity.

The passage of motion 10 this morning shows that Retired Members are making policy of this Union and promised that the defence of the Triple Lock will be taken forward to the TUC.

 

Neil Duncan Jordan, National Officer of the National Pensioners' Convention, was the guest speaker and paid tribute to the CWU for its continued support which is much appreciated. He said he hoped motion 78 on the afternoon agenda concerning NPC funding would be carried because the NPC desperately needs extra income.

Neil said the NPC is the umbrella movement for pensioners; it's the trade union for pensioners.

Turning to the wedge that continues to be driven between the generations Neil said it is being driven by powerful right wing think tanks, Tory dogma and the right wing media. They say pensioners have escaped the effects of austerity whilst workers have suffered pay freezes. This leads to an attack on on Universal Benefits and on Pensions. But society is not like that. Grandparents care for children; daughters and sons care for parents. Families stick together.

But is it true that pensioners have escaped austerity? There's been a £4.6 billion reduction in social care funding in the last 10 years.

Meals on Wheels has virtually disappeared. Malnutrition is on the increase.

Millions of pensioners live in substandard housing leading to fuel poverty and increased Winter deaths.

We have the least adequate state pension in the Western world, only Chile and Mexico are worse among OECD countries.

What about younger people?

Tuition fees; housing benefit withdrawn for under 25's; unaffordable housing; wage freezes; zero hours contracts; worsening pension provision.

All of these factors, Neil asserted, are as a direct result of successive governments policies. They are not the fault nor are they caused by pensioners.

Future generations will have worse occupational pensions than current pensioners mainly as a result of the closure of final salary schemes. Historically governments have been happy to encourage private pensions because they propped up the woeful state pension. The new auto enrolment scheme is totally inadequate. It is forecast to provide a pension pot of £30,000 which will buy a pension of £1200 per annum on current rates. The NPC will pressure both the Tories and Labour to improve this scheme.

But if we took away the bus pass; if we means tested Winter Fuel Allowance which, incidentally, would save only £150 million out of a pension budget of £92 billion, there is no guarantee it would be spent on the under 25's; no guarantee it would be used to raise standards. More likely on this government's record it would simply be used to lower our standard of living.

Property ownership and the rise of property values over decades they say makes us too rich. But this generation of pensioners were encouraged to buy our own homes so we could pay for our own social care!

Arguments that the triple lock is too generous are just nonsense. The state pension is still below the poverty level and the difference between the current pension and the new so called Single Tier Pension will widen over time. The whole of the new pension is protected by the triple lock whereas the State Second Pension element on today's pension is excluded.

The arguments about inequality between generations are phoney arguments. The 5 richest families in this country have as much wealth as as the 12.5 million poorest people. That's the real inequality.

 

Attacks on Universal Benefits are not about money, they're about attacking the Welfare System. The Tories want to diminish or privatise the Welfare System. They've already privatised the free TV licence for the over 75's. From 2018 it'll be the responsibility of the BBC, a position the BBC were forced into in defence of it's Charter. How long will the BBC maintain it is anyone's guess, and they'll be able to reduce or abolish it without reference to parliament. It's not the BBC's role to administer welfare benefits. And, if they can privatise the TV licence what will stop them from farming out the Winter Fuel Allowance to the energy companies or the bus pass to the transport companies.

 

The State Pension Age is already scheduled to increase to 68 and will be subject to revue every 5 years. The excuse is that people are living longer but there's a 7 year difference in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Life expectancy is also job related. We might be living longer but can we work longer? The mantra seams to be "pay in longer, get less out".

 

Finally, Neil said the NPC will continue to link older concerns with those of the younger generations. The NPC is on it 24 hours a day. The support of the CWU is both appreciated and crucial.

 

Graham Wilson

North West Retired Members' Secretary


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North West Conference Report


 


General Secretary, Dave Ward, and SDGS Tony Kearns were the guest speakers at the North West Regional Conference which uniquely includes the sectional AGM’s. Dave was complementary of the format for the meeting and of the North West for being such an active Region. Similarly the CWU is at the forefront among unions in opposing the anti Trade Union Bill as it progresses through Parliament.


The main thrust of the  General Secretary’s contribution concerned the organisation of the CWU. He spoke about the challenges facing the CWU and what we need to do to meet those challenges. Stressing that the prime purpose of any union is to serve its membership. There is a trend in the trade union movement for the large, powerful unions to mop up smaller, weak ones. The strategy needs to recognise this and take steps to avoid the CWU falling into that category. That is why the NEC discussion document is so wide ranging, leaving it open to consider everything and involve everyone. The plan will evolve and will be long term. One plan will be developed and everyone will sign up to it.


This is not a problem exclusive to the CWU, Dave said. Change is needed across the trade union movement to re-connect with members. Both Labour and unions need to confront their own failings. We need to involve more members, making them feel a part of the union and that the union is their union. It doesn’t  just belong to the activists. Support for workplace reps is already better than most unions but it needs to be improved so that the union and the movement in general is more vibrant and more relevant to the majority of workers. We need to re-vamp what we offer to members and to consider how we would organise if we were starting from scratch.


 


Tony Kearns continued in the same vein saying there were three strands to the union; political, industrial and financial. There is scope to bring together industrial and political structures because industrial issues are very often political issues and vice versa. Royal Mail privatisation and the People’s Post campaign; or broadband rollout in telecoms. All have an impact industrially but are political decisions. The Tory government is getting more involved with industrial issues and the introduction of the Trade Union Bill is designed to weaken trade unions, disable Labour party finances and maintain the Tory Party in power for a very long time.


Turning to our declining membership Tony said we now have fewer than 191,500 members, a loss of 5,500 which equates to a reduction of £1.1 million of income. Whilst there are numerous reasons for this it brings serious financial problems especially as the rate of loss is increasing. We need to ask members what type of union they want. There're 25,000 people employed in BT and Royal Mail who are not members. We need to find out why, identify where we can recruit and involve both members and non-members.