I was approached by an enthusiastic trainee hack when on the recent demonstrations to defend pensions. She bounded over, mic in hand, and, with a big grin, jumping from one foot to the other, she asked, “Why are you here?”
I was taken aback by this. Why choose me? There were thousands in attendance. Can journalists spot each other in a crowded room? Yes, I thought, they can. I recalled meeting other journalists at airports ready to depart for press trips and how we always spotted each other even in busy terminals: always.
I looked this trainee up and down: she was still smiling, although nervously now, her hand shaking a little holding the mic. I decided she probably didn’t know I was a journalist but simply spotted me in the crowd and I was willing to answer her question.
I moved my a bag with the huge NUJ logo on it out of the way of the mic and replied, “I’m here to defend public sector pensions not because I have one but because private pensions will be next to suffer.” Or something like that.
When she bounded off, like Tigger, to talk to someone else I began to fret. It was vain, I know, but I worried if I sounded nervous when I wanted to sound assertive, if I sounded unsure when I wanted to sound convincing … if I sounded like a journalist rather than someone unemployed attending a demonstration having signed on earlier that morning and needing a cheap day out.
So when I saw the news this morning a little bit of me felt justified – then horrified.
We’re now told of a “seismic collapse” in private pensions. This was, of course, inevitable once the banks began to fail and, as a nation, we should be shocked and disgusted that some 23 million private sector workers could face a bleak retirement alongside some six million public sector workers – who are now being asked to contribute more to their pensions for longer but will, ultimately, receive less because the hike is essentially a fine.
It staggers me that in 2012 workers can still make profits for their employers or serve their communities every day – be it in a school, an office, cleaning the streets or writing an article – but face a retirement in poverty. It really does show that we are nothing but wage slaves and certainly the 99%.
We’re seeing final-salary schemes, in which a pension is based on earnings at the end of a career and length of service, are being replaced with career average schemes, where the pension is based on your average pay over your career – not great if your average is low and, as wages are not rising, this is a reality for many.
Employers and the government are currently doing too little to protect workers in retirement – even back in 2007 the UK was judged to have the worst state pension scheme in the UK.
So we’ll be working longer, paid less, have limited job security, less opportunity to claim unfair dismissal if sacked without cause … and spend old age in poverty. Welcome to 2012.
Good news: I have finally cleared the gas meter debt and currently have £12 available for heating and hot water. I’m changing supplier as soon as possible
More good news: I don’t have to sign on for another week or so – that will be a whole month without the misery of visiting Jobcentre Plus
Bad news (there was bound to be some): The number of jobs available to apply for has fallen dramatically. I’ve so far found just six to be completed by January 19