When I’m old and grey at 68, and my weary body can’t take any more of the working life, I will look back and curse the current Fine Gael / Labour government for having the shameless audacity to put me to work for three extra years before retirement. The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, 2011, was passed through the Dail on June 8th by a massive 107 to 25 votes, in an instant doing away with years of hard fought struggle by the labour movement. This bill will have huge repercussions for all workers, yet it hardly raised a whimper in the mainstream media.
The bill provides for a raising of the standard age for retirement with state pension from 65 to 66 years by 2011. The qualifying age for the State Pension will then rise from 66 years to 67 years from 2021 and to 68 years from 2028. These plans were announced last year and their implementation fulfils a commitment in the memorandum of agreement with the EU/IMF programme of financial support for Ireland. These measures expose the agenda of the agents of capitalism to make the working class work for less, and for longer in their lives. A cursory read of the EU/IMF Memorandum of Agreement exposes a raft of policies that illustrate that attacks on ordinary workers will be implemented to pay for the capitalist's crisis.
One of the most galling aspects of witnessing this savage and unfair bill being passed through the Dail was that it did not faze one member of the Labour Party to vote it through, when their members of generations past would have been at the forefront of the struggle for a shorter working life. Their shamelessness was further shown by Labour backbenchers heckling Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party /ULA as he tried to highlight their hypocrisy and speak out against the bill.
It seems quite astounding to me that as all of this was going on in our national parliament, there was hardly a murmur in the national mainstream media. It was also quite surprising that the people were not taking to the streets in their thousands to protest. Recently, people power in Slovenia forced the government into a referendum on the issue of a pension age rise, and the vote defeated the proposal by around 70% to 30%. If one casts their mind back to France last year, there was widespread disruption, protests and violence at proposals to raise their pensionable retirement age from 60 to 62. Maybe there was no eruption of protest here due to the almost total media blackout on the issue. More than likely however, it is a reflection of the deflated and despondent public mood after cutbacks and austerity being continuously inflicted upon them, while being told by their government that their is no alternative.
The silence from the trade union movement on the issue has been deafening thus far. It shows how far they have gone in betraying their members. What is inevitable however, is that the fightback will come. This issue may have not been the straw that broke the camels back, but that will come. The Irish people are a patient bunch, and have proven to be resilient in taking what has been lumped upon them. However, there will be a breaking point. Let us all hope it comes sooner rather than later, before the agents of capitalism have the chance to inflict more pain upon the ordinary worker.
Be Moderate? We Only Want The Earth.