Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Meeting with retired people

«The special increase of 10 euros does not restore the erosion of the purchasing power of the retired people and pensioners»

«The special increase of 10 euros does not restore the erosion of the purchasing power of the retired people and pensioners»

Fraternal greetings to all those present at this meeting of retired people and pensioners, to the comrades who participate in their unitary structures who are here and to all those who saw fit to contribute to the various problems everyone faces, such as the increase in the cost of living, the low pensions and their erosion,  the fight for better public services and in defence of the NHS, among others. 

In this month of July, the retired, pensioners and the elderly are paid their monthly pension, added to the pension corresponding to the vacation allowance and the special increase, the amount of which corresponds to the difference between the amount of the update at the beginning of the year and the amount of 10 euros, which will be paid retroactively from January. This is not for all pensioners, since it only applies to pensioners receiving up to 1158 euros, nor allocated by pension. 

This special increase of 10 euros does not restore the erosion of the purchasing power of the retired people and pensioners, who will continue to lose purchasing power in 2022, many of whose pensions are frozen or had insufficient increases for more than 10 years. 

The increase that took place in January this year was based on inflation in November 2021 and an inflation forecast for 2022 of 1.3%, when annual inflation was already up by 8.5%, and may reach more than 6% at the end of the year. 

At that time, in January, it was already clear that these increases did not allow the purchase power to be restored, and at the beginning of the year the special increase of 10 euros was supposed to be paid to  lessen the impact of the price increase that was being felt at the end of 2021 and which had worsened at the time of the discussion of the State Budget, in May 2022. 

The Prime Minister himself, António Costa, admitted that he could have implemented it, but choose not to  do so, under the excuse of the rejection of the State Budget by the PCP, and promising its payment after the elections, sacrificing the urgency of paying this special increase due to a mere electoral calculation. 

With the absolute majority in hand, he merely approved in the State Budget in May 2022 the same proposal presented in October 2021, despite the amount of 10 euros being completely out of date with the evolution of prices and the worsening of the social situation that called for the restoration of the purchasing power of the retired and pensioners heavily penalised in their living conditions in view of the high cost of living.

His absolute majority allowed him to defeat the  PCP’s proposal, which aimed to materialise the restoration of the purchasing power of all pensions. 

With this decision and contrary to what it says, the PS Government does not “continue the trajectory of real valorisation of the income of pensioners in the lower income brackets.” 

A trajectory of valorisation that was only possible due to the determination of the PCP in the demand of special increases of all pensions, which the PS was obliged to partially follow, resulting in special increases, between 2017 and 2021, of the lower pensions.

The government's propaganda operation on the social impact of the special increase of 10 euros we are witnessing is refuted by the mere fact that the price of a gas cylinder has increased 10 euros, laying bare its obvious insufficiency. A propaganda operation that extends with the  announcement for 2023 of an increase in pensions that the Government presents as “historic”, but which barely restores the purchasing power lost this year and serves to hide its refusal to make special increases, as it should have already done in 2022. 

We must combat this propaganda, refuted by reality. Pensions are the main source of income of this social group, which replaces income from work and is in most cases low, because wages have also been burdened by the negative impact of the increase in prices of services and essential goods, which calls into question adequate nutrition and the payment of basic expenditure such as electricity,  gas, water, housing or healthcare expenditure. 

The retired and pensioners are burdened by the impacts of the epidemic outbreak and isolation, the lack of investment in public services, such as the National Health Service, enhancing social inequalities among the elderly, impoverishment and poverty, along with feelings of insecurity and hopelessness. 

Problems that the PS does not respond to, but which have been at the heart of the struggle of pensioners and their organisations in defence of their rights. 

There is an undeniable reality: only the concerted action of the PCP and the struggle of pensioners can guarantee the necessary progress in their living conditions. It has been so in the recent past, it will be so in the future!

The subordination of the PS to the guidelines of the European Union, letting the country's problems increase, refusing to regulate prices, the response to the needs of public services, in particular in healthcare, choosing to protect the expansion of the profits of big capital, instead of protecting the purchasing power of workers, pensioners and  micro, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. Big capital which took advantage of the epidemic outbreak and now of the war and specially the sanctions to promote its speculative activities and increase its profits.

To make matters worse there we have the "country specific recommendations", adopted by the last European Council, with guidelines that, in the case of Portugal, already show the enhancement of budgetary pressures for 2022 and 2023, with the proclaimed objective of containing the "current expenditure" of the State. We know what this means, with regard to our everyday lives: disinvestment in the social functions of the State, in public services, specially in the National Health Service, limitation and cuts in social support, attacks on wages and pensions.

The IMF, on its part, has recently taken a position on pensions in Portugal and wants new measures to change the calculation of the pension and increase the age of access to early retirement. Invoking the costs of the reduction of penalties for long careers, what it really wants is  limit and withdraw rights achieved with much struggle. Make no mistake if you think it will be easy. They will face the struggle of the retired people and pensioners, with the PCP fighting alongside you. 

We have a political framework, that besides the absolute majority of the PS, is marked by the continued promotion of reactionary projects and forces (PSD, CDS, Chega and Iniciativa Liberal), increasing the attack on the social functions of the State, the instrumentalization of real problems with demagogic speeches, with partial or isolated proposals, aiming to create divisions and conflicts and hold April accountable,  its values and the Constitution, aiming at their destruction and concealing the trampling and subversions that have fallen on them for decades of right-wing policy, from where these voices emanate.

The country has the resources and means to respond to the structural deficits and serious social problems caused by decades of right-wing policies and the PCP assumes with confidence and determination a different course for the country.

We assume, with determination and confidence, that in our country it is possible and necessary to guarantee the right to grow old, as a dimension of the increase in average life expectancy with the adoption of measures that  aim to achieve these rights  for those who have retired. 

For the PCP, the replacement of the purchasing power of pensions in 2022, preventing the erosion of their purchasing power and contributing to boost economic activity and employment, will remain at the centre of our attention and intervention. As is the demand for the yearly valorisation of pensions, replacing the purchasing power of all pensions, of the lowest, but also of all those resulting from payments to Social Security. 

We will continue to assume, with determination and confidence, the demand for immediate and concrete measures to save the National Health Service and guarantee the right to healthcare for all, together with the strengthening of the various public services and social functions of the State, against the background of its irreplaceable role in safeguarding well-being,  stability and quality of life of the retired, pensioners and the elderly, and of the population in general. 

We will continue to assume, with determination and confidence, the need for measures to strengthen the Network of Facilities and Support Services for the elderly in their different social responses, based on the diversity and quality of the specific responses, according to the needs of a heterogeneous social group. 

We give priority to public investment for the short-term creation of at least 80,000 vacancies in residential structures to support the elderly, corresponding to the creation of 20,000 vacancies per year, and the expansion of the Nursing Homes Network.

The retired, pensioners and elderly can count on the PCP as their ally in their right to age with rights and quality of life. For this we need to take steps in strengthening the party's intervention with the retired, starting in the neighbourhood, the parish or the municipality, to make known the proposals and the struggle of the PCP, extending this struggle to more and more pensioners.

The expansion of the struggle of the retired, pensioners and the elderly is a crucial factor not only to resist, but also to advance in the conquest of rights and living conditions. 

We therefore welcome the MURPI, its Associations and Federations, namely the District Federation of Setúbal, for the success of the 10th. Congress and the 25th. Big Picnic which  gathered 3,000 pensioners, and which shows the potential to broaden the struggle on the demands that this Confederation advocates.

We equally welcome Inter-reformados, a specific organisation of CGTP-IN for their struggle, clearly seen in the convergent action that was held with MURPI, on May 10, but also for its strong presence in the National Demonstration held on July 7 in the demand for real increase in wages and pensions, in defence of intergenerational solidarity within the framework of the public Social Security system,  the demand to eliminate the sustainability factor and restore the retirement age at 65 years, the right to pension without penalties with 40 years of payments, which correspond to the defence of the right of all generations to grow old with rights. 

We are sure that with the struggle of the retired and pensioners and the action of their organisations, we will win!

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