2016 Labour Party conference
Retirement, for people my age, is a distant concept.
For us, it’ll likely be one of two extremes: either we’ll all be forced to retire early when we are made redundant by robots, or I’ll probably die at my desk.
There’s really no middle ground.
So it might strike you as odd that a 20 year old would stand here to second a motion about retirement.
But as long as any issue affects anyone of us in our communities, in our workplaces and in our families – then it’s an issue which should concern us all.
As with any belief in a particular policy, this one can be explained with a personal story … I live with my gran; my Nana Shirley.
She left school at 14, and she entered the world of work right away.
Throughout her life, the ‘v’ in her CV stood for ‘varied’ – she worked in retail, in hospitality and laterally as a cleaner.
She worked all her life – she was even stood at the till, serving customers in a shop the very day she gave birth to my mother.
My Nana Shirley has never been workshy and had never missed a day at her job.
That is – until she was diagnosed five years ago with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
She had to give up her job because she simply could not keep it up.
It was a difficult thing for her to do, an anyone who knows her knows it was the last thing she ever wanted to do.
And thus began a long, stressful process of convincing the DWP of her struggle.
Despite the doctor’s diagnosis, try as she might – they stubbornly refused to declare her unfit for work, and ignored her when she said – pleaded – that she would work if she still could.
They demeaned her and made her search for jobs she knew – and, I suspect, they knew – she could never take.
Her situation would have been so much easier, so much fairer – so much more dignifying – if the severity of her condition were duly recognised, and the right to retire were granted.
What does it say about the stresses and strains of the modern British workplace when one in eight workers must leave before their time?
And, more importantly, what does it say about modern British society if we don’t treat these folks with the respect and compassion they have more than earned?
We’re better than that, which is why I urge you to support this motion.
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