Thursday, June 22, 2017
Retirement? What Retirement? The unspoken last speech to UNISON...
In my fourteen years on the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) I think I have spoken from the platform on no more occasions than the four on which I spoke, from the floor, in the two days of my last Local Government Conference as a branch delegate.
My NEC colleagues, recognising that I am outclassed by so many of their number as a speaker, have kindly spared my blushes over the years by protecting me from too much public exposure.
This year however, I was asked to speak should Conference reach motion 56 (Retirement? What Retirement?). I appreciated the wit of asking an NEC member who was voluntarily standing down from the NEC and returning to work to speak on a motion with such a title.
However, the motion is too far down the remaining order of business (known as the “snake”) to be taken before tomorrow lunchtime – and now that we have seen the outcome of the process of reprioritisation of Friday afternoon’s business it is clear that the motion will not be taken and hence my last speech to UNISON will not be given.
Although Motion 56 repeated much that Conference had already discussed and so there is no loss to Conference business from its not being taken, it does mean that I will not be able to address Conference on one of the little discussed social problems which has been a, perhaps unintended, consequence of the removal of fixed retirement ages in recent years.
This has created space for a pernicious new form of elder abuse, in which older workers are denied the opportunity to retire and enjoy their pensions under pressure from (for example) partners or colleagues who cajole the older worker into continuing to work even where this is against the wishes and best interests of the worker concerned.
Since I will now be leaving my last UNISON position tomorrow, having successfully engaged in the sort of succession planning which it is the responsibility of all of us to attend to, it will be for others in our Union to consider whether, and if so to what extent, UNISON should address this problem in future.