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'Workers are being told "bugger off, you're 65 now". It's not fair'

The Independent Alliance want Paschal Donohoe to give workers the option to work until the age of 66 if they choose.

Image: Shutterstock/ALPA PROD

THE INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE has called on the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to give workers the option to work until the age of 66 if they choose.

Currently in Ireland, public servants and many employees in the private sector, are forced to retire at the age of 65.

This has resulted in pushing thousands of people onto social welfare for a year before their State Pension kicks in at the age of 66.

In February, the government accepted, in principle, a Sinn Féin Bill abolishing the mandatory retirement age, deciding not to oppose the Bill.

The issue was highlighted again in July, but this time by Fianna Fáil’s welfare spokesman Willie O’Dea, who said 5,000 people have been forced onto social welfare for 12 months.

The situation will become more acute in the years to come as a result of changes to the State Pension.

In 2021, the qualifying age for the State Pension will rise to 67 and in 2028, a person will not be entitled to receive their State Pension until they reach the age of 68.

With the Independent Alliance, whose members include Transport Minister Shane Ross, Minister for State of the OPW Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath and Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan, throwing their weight behind the issue, it could result in real action.

Donohoe could lead the way

Independent Alliance TD Sean Canney told TheJournal.ie that Minister Donohoe could “lead the way by changing the current rules for public servants” adding that the private sector could follow his lead.

Canney said it has become “a real issue for many people both in the public and private sectors”.

For some people forced to retire, it has been a case of “bugger off, you’re 65 now. People shouldn’t be treated like that,” he said.

“There is a huge knowledge base there that shouldn’t just be dismissed,” he added.

By giving workers the option to stay in the workplace until they reach ‘pensionable age’, this means that they will continue to contribute to the Exchequer and would not have to claim social welfare payments to carry them through to when the pension is payable.

It’s understood it was raised with the minister prior to the Budget, with Canney indicating it is something he wanted to address in the future.

This is not something we can just let drift,” said Canney, who added that he did not foresee the issue causing any controversy between the Independent Alliance and Fine Gael in government.

“It’s not something that is controversial, it makes sense that it needs to be looked at,” said the Galway TD.

In response to the calls for the retirement age to be addressed, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said an interdepartmental working group was set up last year to examine and report on the issues arising from the current retirement ages for workers in both the public and private sectors.

While looking at both sectors, the department is only responsible for retirement ages of those in the public sector.

On foot of one of the recommendations of the report, the department was tasked to review the current statutory and operational considerations to allowing workers extend their participation in the public service workforce up to and including the current age of entitlement to the Contributory State Pension.

That review is well advanced, with the department stating that any policy in this area will be considered by government following the outcome of the review.

Pension anomaly 

Anomalies surrounding the State Pension hit the headlines recently, due to a number of men and women being penalised for taking time out of the workforce resulting in them losing out on €30 per week.

Today, the government suffered a series of embarrassing Dáil defeats, most notably on a Fianna Fáil motion that proposes an end to the pension anomaly.

However, Sinn Féin has hit out at Fianna Fáil for not supporting its amendment to the motion, which would include an acknowledgement of the fact that there are more 65 year olds on Jobseekers payments than any other age category in the State and called on the government to restore the State Pension Transition until such time as mandatory retirement is abolished.

“This is an issue that Fianna Fáil has raised on the floor of the Dáil yet, when it came to addressing the issue, they chose to turn their backs on these people,” said Sinn Féin’s John Brady.

Read: No public health policy has ‘been designed with the homeless population specifically in mind’

Read: The man who pioneered a solution to homelessness: Give people homes

 

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