Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon has called on the Gibraltar Government to urgently address the “long neglected” subject of private sector pensioners.
In a statement Ms Hassan Nahon said it was important to show support to the plight of the collective represented by the Private Sector Workers and Pensioners Association, which speaks on behalf of some 300 pensioners.
In doing so she flagged how, currently, the private sector in Gibraltar employs 20,977 workers.
That represents more than 77% of the total workforce of Gibraltar and a similar percentage of the total economy.
“The Gibraltar Private Sector Workers and Pensioners Association have been lobbying tirelessly to no avail for over 11 years now – an equitable response to their very legitimate claims is long overdue,” Ms Hassan Nahon said.
Under the current framework, she said, private pensioners without an Occupational Pension who have contributed amply to the economy – up to 42 years in order to obtain a full old age pension find themselves having to endure very difficult living conditions and feel discriminated against with regard to other pensioner collectives.
“As a result, many old age pensioners find themselves having to work well beyond retirement age in order to maintain dignified living conditions.”
“The group has been ignored, misled and on occasions outright lied to by successive governments, and even though it acknowledges efforts by the current administration to engage in dialogue, they feel the representations made – both in public and in private – have not been adequately fulfilled.”
She further flagged commitments made in successive GSLP/Liberal manifestos on the issue.
“In private meetings with the Chief Minister, committee members were also given assurances that their claims would be addressed in a way that would benefit the majority of the collective,” Ms Hassan Nahon said.
“The last attempt by Government to appease the Association, namely the Household Support Supplement, states that the amount equivalent to 90% of the national minimum wage not average earnings, as previously promised will constitute the minimum rate of income that a pensioner couple should receive per year (£985).”
In the case of single persons, she added, 60% of the national minimum wage (£658) should be the minimum rate of income that such a person should be in receipt of per year.
In order to calculate this, monthly income from all sources will be computed, including savings and Community Care payments.
“This measure will support only those pensioners of extremely low incomes those that didn’t or couldn’t pay their full tax and SI contributions, but does nothing for those receiving a full old age pension, which amounts to £1022.70 for a couple – after adding Community Care, which all residents receive.”
“We believe that this amount does not provide for dignified living conditions, and that, all things considered, creates an extremely unfair outcome.”
“The measure seems to incentivise those who contribute less to the economy, as those with the Household Support Supplement will end up receiving almost as much as those who have paid their dues for over 40 years.”
Ms Hassan Nahon said the message to the Government is simple – this measure simply will not suffice.
“It provides a lifeline to those living in sheer desperation, but it continues to tolerate that private sector pensioners with full old age pensions live on what is effectively a subsistence wage,” she said.
“The collective also wants to stress that they have not been consulted during this process or even been asked to make a representation on behalf of their members, something they consider to be a disrespectful gesture from Government.”
“This situation becomes particularly wounding when put alongside that of other pensioner collectives in Gibraltar,” she said.
She added that she and the GPSW&PA wish to make it clear that these claims are not to be understood as a criticism or an undermining of the conditions of public sector workers, but more as way to highlight the “gross injustice” suffered by the collective.
“We wish to ameliorate the lot of Private Sector pensioners and correct an unfair system, but we do not wish to do so at the cost of worsening conditions for civil servants.”
Ms Hassan Nahon further urged the Government to fulfil its promises, hear the GPSW and PA´s legitimate claims and address these injustices as soon as possible.