Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
The bitter and lasting fruits of the savage austerity that was imposed on working people first by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party and then by Fine Gael and Labour are very plain to see with the brutal housing crisis we face and the shocking situation in the health service but events in France over the past five days where massive demonstrations and strikes are taking place remind us of another bitter and long-lasting consequence of the unjust austerity imposed in this country on working people, namely, the attack on pension rights. It might be of interest to workers in this country that French workers are fighting to protect a pension entitlement age of 62. Some workers in hard physical jobs get their pension at the age of 55. People are on the streets in their millions striking to prevent the pension entitlement age going up to 64.
In this country, we are in a far worse position. In March 2010, the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government made a decision to commence three phases of attacks on pension entitlements. They loaded the gun to attack pension rights and then Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the former Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, pulled the trigger in 2014 to provide that people would not get their pension until the age of 66. As of 2021, workers born after 1955 will not get it until they are aged 67 and, as of 2028, workers will not get it until they are 68. This will mean that workers in this country will be in the worst situation in the OECD in respect of their pension rights and entitlements. They will have to work longer than anybody else to get pensions that, in many cases, have been significantly reduced. Comparisons are, again, worthwhile. In Norway, a person gets a pension at the age of 61; in Sweden, at 62; and in Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK, at 65. However, workers in this country will get it at either 67 or 68. The age is currently 66. Irish workers are the most productive anywhere in the western world, even when one strips out the impact of transfer pricing.
This was all justified in the name of austerity. Austerity is over. We are now one of the richest countries in the world with the fastest growing economy in western Europe. Does the Taoiseach think it is fair that workers in this country should work longer and harder for less or does he think we should take a lead from what French workers are doing and fight to reverse those attacks on the pension rights and entitlements of working people in this country who paid and worked hard for their pensions?