This week our nation is experiencing a strike by thousands of workers in the National Health Service plus Ministry of Defence civilian staff and civil servants. The inconvenience which will be costly to strikers and to those affected, is unlikely to achieve anything.
Their main gripe is being required to work beyond the age of 65, plus increased contributions and ultimately receiving poorer pensions. Sadly, realisation has yet to dawn with some, that the privilege of a longer life span has to be paid for. Striking will not alter the sums.
Like many children of my day, I left school at the age of 15 going straight into an apprenticeship. Theoretically, the idea was that one worked until 65, a total of 50 years, retiring on a mixture of state and private pension. I continued to work full time until 72, and now have reduced my hours and stepped aside from the stress. The interesting statistic is that nearly 20 per cent of my staff are over retirement age, and are pleased to be working. They enjoy the daily contact and challenge of work.
I accept that some jobs require some physical strain, and that industry has to have a rethink as to deployment of such workers. This is could be possible, it just requires careful planning. However, as a generalisation, working beyond 65, whilst being necessary to pay for pensions in later years, is still very beneficial. Health and fitness experts are continually harping on the virtues of physical exercise. In my view, it just as important to exercise the brain, which needs regular challenges such as those experienced at work.
Many of the strikers appear to think that they are entitled, as of right, to retire at 65. By implication, those striking today expect the rest of us to keep them in their old age by working even longer. This is not going to happen. With most youngsters now in full time education until the age of 18, the working life span is still only 50 years. If health improvement continues and life span extends, it will not be long before retirement at 70 will be the norm.
Most statisticians calculate that workers in the public sector earn about seven per cent more than those in private businesses. Therefore the strikers have very little to complain about, and should have a rethink before damaging this country still further.
* Russell Luckock is chairman of Birmingham pressings firm AE Harris