Wigan pensioners demand action to tackle cost of living crisis

Retired trade union members in Wigan are calling for a “new normal” after the pandemic, as the cost of living soars and more people face financial difficulties.

By Gaynor Clarke
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 2:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2022, 2:09 pm

Wigan Metro Unison’s retired members’ section is concerned about the money problems facing many, with any increases in income falling below the rate of inflation.

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They say it is particularly worrying for older people and with the section representing more than 1,100 pensioners in the borough, members believe national

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Retired members Shirley Skinley and Joan Harrison on the picket line in 2020

and local government need to take immediate action to tackle these issues.

They are upset by the “deafening silence about pensioner poverty” from Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the spring budget, as many older people are already forced to choose between heating their homes or eating.

And there are concerns about what is to come, with the recent State of Ageing 2022 report saying pensioner poverty was increasing.

Retired Unison member Joan Harrison said: "This is unbelievable from the UK, the fifth richest country in the world, and with the cost of living at a 30-year high.

“On top of this, just as the Government refused to maintain the £20 weekly uplift for those receiving universal credit last October, the Government’s election promise to keep the ‘triple lock’ in place for the annual pension increase was jettisoned.

"The Government argued that wage inflation was ‘distorted’ and it would be unfair on everyone else to use that figure to increase pensions. Yet the UK state pension is one of the lowest in the developed world. And the constant downgrading of the value of our pension in the here and now will have significant implications for all working people as they reach retirement age.”

She continued: “When you are young, especially if your wages are low and you are just about getting by, the last thing on your mind is your future pension. But one day, you will be relying on that pension. What we as older people lose now, just undermines future pensions. It must be in line with inflation.”

Members are also concerned about the ageing population and the pressure faced by the NHS and social services.

Joan, who was a care worker before she retired, said: “Privatisation of our care and health services is not how we should be heading. Making a profit shouldn’t come into it. The need is for care services to be regulated by the council with staff that are given the training needed to provide a quality service and with wages that reflect the skills and dedication that care jobs require.

“We would all prefer to be cared for by someone who feels valued themselves.”

Carol Coltman, secretary of Wigan Unison’s retired members’ section, said: “This Government has declared war on old working-class people. They consider us to be unproductive and unnecessary, yet they still want our hard-earned savings through privatised care homes and forced spending on private services where underfunding in the public services has created bottlenecks. They left thousands to die in unsafe care homes during the pandemic, still ignore the thousands that die every winter from cold, and have created an atmosphere of menace for those in the twilight years of life.”