Retired Workers' North/South Seminar

Report on the Inaugural Retired Workers' Seminar - North/South 25th & 26th February 2016

The inaugural seminar of The Retired Workers' Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions was held in the CWU Conference Centre, North Circular Road Dublin.  It was attended by the members of the retired committees, north and south, and invited guests.  All retirees who attended were sponsored by their parent union and this generosity was marked and much appreciated.

The Seminar was opened by the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Patricia King, who warmly welcomed the delegates and spoke of her admiration for the work of the Retired Workers' Committee.  She referred to the Committee's report on the status of retired workers in the trade union movement which pointed out that "the age of austerity" has shown that older people are not immune from neo-liberal attacks on living standards and entitlements.  The doctrine of  'legitimate expectations', long regarded as the main protection of pensioners and pensions in payment, is exposed as scant protection for entitlements earned and paid for over a lifetime of work.  This report was presented to, and adopted by the Biennial Delegate Conference of Congress in Ennis in 2015.  Ms King also welcomed the fact that a member of the retired committee now had a seat on the Executive Council (observer status).

Carla Cantone, General Secretary of FERPA (The European Federation of Retired and Older People) which represents 10 million retired workers across Europe, spoke to the meeting about the need to build "an alliance of all pensioners in Europe and to foster an ongoing discourse between generations."  High on her agenda was the protection of pension income in order to combat the poverty that is spreading across Europe among older people.

Officers from ICTU, from unions north and south of the border and from NERI presented papers on "pensions and Pension Policy in Ireland".  It was interesting to hear how several unions had established links with their retired members and how their voices were heard and listened to.

Retired Workers in Northern Ireland are members of The Age Sector Platform which gives them the right to take part in Westminster Campaign Committees.  They regularly attend, not only The Northern Ieland Assembly but also the Westminster Parliament where they can meet their  elected representatives and raise awareness of particular issues.  Thus their voice is being heard and they feel empowered to change their lives for the better.

Other topics covered at the seminar were lobbying and the new lobbying legislation and the work of the Public Services Committee.

It was a most interesting and thought provoking seminar but it wasn't all serious work.  A dinner in the Croke Park Hotel on the first evening provided a great opportunity for delegates to mix and to get acquainted.  Padraig Yeats, a social historian, who has written several books on Dublin in the period 1913 - 1924 delivered the 1916 History Lecture on Social Policy in Ireland.

In future seminars will be held on an annual basis. The next one will be hosted by the Northern Committee in Belfast and thereafter will alternate between Dublin and Belfast.