That Dáil Éireann:
— workers in the State make a considerable tax contribution throughout their working life and should have the right to access the full pension rate of payment when they retire at age 65;
— some workers want to retire at age 65, while others want to remain at work, where they are able and willing to do so;
— numerous employment contracts stipulate an end of employment date in line with when an employee turns 65 years of age;
— since the abolition of the State Pension Transition payment, thousands of 65-year-olds have had to sign on for a Jobseeker’s payment;
— there are now thousands of 65-year-olds who are on the Jobseeker’s social welfare rate of €203 per week instead of the State Pension rate;
— there is a difference of €45.30 between the Jobseeker payments and the State Pension, leading to an annual loss of €2,355.60; and
— the pension age had been scheduled in legislation to increase to 67 years of age in 2021, and 68 years of age in 2028; and
calls on the Government to:
— commit to restoring the State Pension Transition payment for those retiring at 65 years of age;
— abolish mandatory retirement, with exceptions for security-related employment, to give workers the choice to work or retire so long as they are fit to do so;
— ensure that workers who choose to work on, do so on their own terms, and in their conditions of employment they are not compelled to sign fixed- or short-term contracts of employment;
— make provision for those who remain at work beyond 65 years of age to have their Pay Related Social Insurance contributions counted towards their State Pension; and
— commit not to further increase the State Pension age.
It is not that long since the last election and the message from voters then was very, very clear. Workers want the right to their pension rate of pay, after a lifetime of work, when they reach the age of 65. They also want the choice to work on on their same terms and conditions of employment. In short, workers want choice and I agree with them. That is what this motion is about. It is about giving workers a choice and making a public declaration we listened to them in the last election and have not forgotten the message they gave us.
After a lifetime of work, I and Sinn Féin believe a worker should be able to retire on the full pension rate of pay. That was abolished by the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government in 2013. We want that position reversed and replaced with the choice to access the pension rate of pay at 65 or to work on on the same terms and conditions of employment. That is an important part of this motion. We want to see Deputies backing the position that workers should not only have the right to work on when their contract states they must retire at a certain age but that they should not be forced to take lesser or different terms and conditions of employment. They should have the right to work on on the same terms and conditions.
I would welcome the views of the Minister of State on this matter, which is important. There are many reasons for workers wanting to work on, not least of which is the sky-rocketing cost of housing. They should not have their terms and conditions diminished. In fact, the State should protect their terms and conditions, when they exercise the right to work on. There are many workers in arduous employment. They spend all day on their feet, carrying heavy loads, cleaning and working outdoors in all weathers. When they get to 65, their shift is done. They are ready to retire and want the dignity of the pension rate of pay. They have paid tax all their working lives and want to be able to access the pension rate at 65.
I do not know that many of us in this House will ever understand what a lifetime of backbreaking work does to a person's body, but we can certainly show empathy and try to understand that many workers are simply not able to continue past the age of 65.
Being able to access the pension rate means they can realistically consider stopping work. If one is waiting tables, laying blocks, stacking shelves, cleaning or doing any other physically demanding work, that extra year makes a huge difference.
I understand the Minister of State will read the script, try to deflect from the issues and maybe try to score a few political points but I caution against that. This Dáil motion gives the Minister of State the opportunity to speak directly to those workers and let them know where he stands on this important issue. I ask him to address his remarks directly to those workers to let them know if he is prepared to hear their concerns and fears about being denied the pension rate of pay at the age of 65 after a lifetime of work and to outline the Government’s position on the right to work past the retirement age stipulated in a worker’s contract on the same terms and conditions. I really want to hear the Government’s position on this. I further ask the Minister of State to recognise the contribution these workers have made during their whole working lives.
We often stand in this Chamber and say politics is about making choices. We have a choice this evening. Sinn Féin has chosen to use our time to amplify the very real concerns of these workers about the mean-spirited move to raise the pension age. We want to use our time to let the Government know that workers want and deserve the choice at the age of 65. When one hits 65 in this State, the chances are that one has been working and paying tax and PRSI for decades and that one started work believing one would be able to retire at the age of 65.
We ask the Government to join us this evening to support older workers and give them dignity. “Dignity” is an important word here. When we talk to people on the doors, which we have the opportunity to do now with the approaching by-election, they say there is dignity in being able to access the pension rate of pay at the age of 65. We ask the Government to join us in supporting that.