Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fight the virus and defend the rights of the retirees, pensioners and elderly

STATEMENT BY JERÓNIMO DE SOUSA, GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE PCP, SUBLIC SESSION "FIGHT THE VIRUS AND DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE RETIREES, PENSIONERS AND ELDERLY"







The last few months have been marked by an exceptional situation, as a result of the outbreak of COVID -19 and the sanitary measures to prevent and fight it, in which the National Health Service and its professionals have played an irreplaceable role.
We have entered a new period of resuming life in the country, a path towards the normalisation of economic activity and the life of the Portuguese aware of the need to comply with the basic rules of health protection, individual and collective.
The step by step return to work has to be accompanied by the need to strengthen the protection of all those who dynamize the economic activity of the country, starting with the creation of conditions that safeguard the protection of those who have to travel in public transport every day to work.
Those who find themselves without a job with cuts in wages and those who survive on low pensions have increased difficulties in getting masks, gloves and disinfectant solution due to prices incompatible with their income level.
An unacceptable situation that shows that the epidemic outbreak has been bolstered by capital and multinational companies as an opportunity to increase their profits, by increasing labour exploitation and by speculating the prices of these products and other essential goods for life.
Meanwhile, I would like to note the misunderstanding that has been created in society, between the "duty of special attention to citizens over 70 years" and their mandatory lockdown, without any legal base for it.
It is understandable that families want to do everything they can to protect their parents, grandparents and even their neighbours or acquaintances.
What is unacceptable is that, based on this fair concern, one tries to segregate the elderly and curtail their rights and freedoms.
It is necessary to contradict conceptions such as those put forward by the President of the European Commission, when she defended that the contacts of the elderly with other people would have to be limited until the end of the year.
Such a perspective cannot be separated from its essence by those who have transformed aging into a “social burden”.
In this Session addressed to the retirees, pensioners and elderly, the PCP reaffirms that preventing and fighting the epidemic outbreak for all citizens, namely for those over 70 years, must be accompanied by the appreciation of the role they played as workers, the value of their social, political and cultural participation in this stage of their life and for the contribution to society of their experience and knowledge.
We do not underestimate the risks of contagion among themselves and the additional care for the most vulnerable people, elderly or not, but we must reject the stigma on the elderly!
It is not the elderly who carry the risk of contagion, among themselves and the other citizens. Being elderly is not synonymous with dependence, lack of social autonomy or lack of ability to make informed and responsible decisions, whether in the field of virus prevention or in all areas of their life.
Feeding such stigma would mean feeding the feelings that are “weigh on” the family and society; making the lives of those living in care homes a nightmare; reducing the right of the vast majority to freedom and the right to decide their lives and act in defence of their rights.
Complacency with such a path would have very damaging consequences on their physical and emotional health.
A word to the elderly who live in care homes. Everything has to be done to ensure the special protection of these elderly people and workers, but also to ensure the quality of the services provided, which guarantee their safety, their well-being and the carrying out of activities that mitigate the consequences of their social and family isolation.
It is worth remembering that the retirees, pensioners and elderly are a heterogeneous social group that involves citizens over 65 years, with a strong emphasis on «the young elderly», the elderly and the very elderly. Most have expectations, a strong motivation to live this stage of their life, with pleasure, with the possibility of carrying out activities that they could not carry out when they were workers and a strong appetite for associative forms linked to social, recreational, cultural or sports activities.
The lives of the elderly cannot remain suspended in the face of the epidemic outbreak. Compliance with the safety standards that are due and required for all cannot be associated with the perverse idea that nothing will be as before, in the present and in the future.
Fear should not paralyse everyone's life, fear of being infected and of contagion should not deprive the elderly of gratifying emotional and social relationships. Just as the relentless fight against social inequalities and poverty among the elderly cannot be suspended, there is as well the need to create a Public Network of Equipment and Services to meet the specific needs of the elderly, without prejudice to the complementary role, no less valuable, of private institutions of social solidarity.
Without forgetting the necessary support for the associations of the retirees, pensioners and elderly, as an important associative expression of this social group, it should include their home support activities, as well as their day care and social centres to resume these activities when the conditions are created.
The current context cannot make the resolution of the problems that affect most retirees and pensioners a secondary issue, and continue to move in combating low pension values and situations of poverty, and in implementing their right to decent pensions and living conditions.
We therefore valorise the implementation in this month of May, of the extra increase in pensions that covers one million and eight hundred thousand retirees and pensioners, which was made possible for the fourth consecutive year due to the determination of the PCP and the struggle of the retirees and their specific organisations for better pensions and decent living conditions.
Due to the initiative of the PCP, an increase of 10 and 6 euros was achieved in 2020.
Let us look at two examples, of the importance of this increase for social security pensions:
A pension of 450 euros in January 2020 had an increase of 3.15 euros. In May, there will be an increase of 6.85 euros more, thus totalling 10 euros. The social old-age pension, which in 2019 was 210.32 euros, increased in January 2020 by 1.58 euros. In May there will be an increase of 4.82 euros, thus totalling 6 euros.
This extra increase in 2020, added to those of 2019, 2018 and 2017 means that a significant portion of the retirees, pensioners and elderly has, in these 4 years, an increase in the value of their pension of 40 or 24 euros per month.
These extra increases mitigate the consequences of the pension freeze, between 2011 and 2015, imposed by the PSD/CDS government and the insufficient yearly increases that the mere application of the pension update mechanism advocated by the PS would materialise.
They were only possible because the PCP did not give up. But we are aware that this extra increase fell short of the objectives and the scope recommended by its proposal: 10 euros for all pensions, starting in January, whose percentage value would be higher for the lowest and lower for the rest, ensuring everybody a restoration of their purchasing power.
The priority given to the valorisation of pensions requires the valorisation of wages and social security payments, as a central feature to interrupt the spiral of low pensions for generations of workers who retire, but it also imposes a change to the unfair mechanism of pension updating, created by a PS government in 2006, and the creation of new minimum pension brackets in the social security system that valorise the longest contributory careers.
Fighting the virus cannot mean fewer rights for the retirees, pensioners and elderly. We will continue to fight in defence of the central role of the Public Social Security System in guaranteeing the right to a decent pension, nor will we collude with the right-wing policy solutions, based on the weakening of the Public Social Security System, facilitating the dilapidation of revenues which are due to the social security system, taking for granted that nothing can be done to prevent such a path.
We will do all we can to ensure everyone's rights to healthcare within the framework of the National Health Service, as well as other public services. Because they are all essential to guarantee the right to grow old with rights and enable to live more years with health and well-being.
The widely trumpeted active aging, when it comes to imposing solutions of the right-wing policy of prolonging the professional activity of the elderly, cannot be associated with keeping the elderly confined and without perspective, accepting that everything will irreparably worse.
It is necessary to give confidence that it is necessary to resume their lives naturally, making the necessary adaptations that compel everyone, given the exceptional nature of the times we live with respect for their freedoms and rights.
I therefore welcome the action of the retirees, pensioners and elderly and their specific associative movement and their role in the struggle to raise their living conditions and rights and for their political, social, cultural and sports participation.
The epidemic outbreak confirms the need to implement an alternative, patriotic and left-wing policy that materialises a national strategy on the issues of aging based on policies that uphold the deepening of the rights of the retirees, pensioners and elderly, ensuring that living longer means having quality of life, with economic and social autonomy, physical and psychological well-being and preventing and combating the risks of poverty among the elderly and promoting adequate protection against illness and dependency.

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