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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Unions back pensions link
man collecting pension
Many have called for a better deal for pensioners
Unions have vowed to continue their campaign to restore the link between pensions and average earnings amid reports that the government is about to offer pensioners a minimum income of 100 a week.

The reports - in The Times and The Independent - were denied by the Treasury, however, with a spokesman saying he did not "recognise any of those figures".

Any increase in pensions is welcome, but if it is just going to be a one-off, it will not go very far

Rodney Bickerstaffe
The government has come under increasing pressure to increase the minimum pension after this year's 75p-a-week rise drew heavy criticism.

But the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has resisted calls to restore the link between earnings and pensions, arguing it would do little to help the worst off.

Instead he insists help should be targeted at the most needy with the Minimum Income Guarantee and the Pensioners Credit announced in the Budget.

'Restore the link'

The issue is certain to be raised at the annual conference of the Trades Union Congress which starts in Glasgow on 11 September and also at the Labour conference later in the month.

Rodney Bickerstaffe
Bickerstaffe: Campaigning for pensioners
A key figure at both gatherings will be Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, the UK's biggest union.

Responding to the reports, he said: "Any increase in pensions is welcome, but if it is just going to be a one-off, it will not go very far.

"What we need is the restoration of the earnings link and a much higher minimum basic pension."

Mr Bickerstaffe, who is likely to take over from Jack Jones as head of the National Pensioners Convention next year, said pensioners were "put off" from claiming Pensioners Credit, often because they did not understand the paperwork.

Pensions pressure

Single pensioners currently receive 67.50 a week, topped up under the minimum income guarantee to 78.45 for those without a private pension or savings of more than 8,000.

Actor Tony Booth
Tony Blair's father-in-law joined the pensions debate
A recent Commons Select Committee report recommended that pensioners should be guaranteed 90 a week.

Actor Tony Booth, the prime minister's father-in-law, is among those who have called on Tony Blair to restore the link between the annual pension rise and average earnings

He said this would free thousands of pensioners from reliance on state benefits.

The link between pensions and earnings was abolished by the Thatcher government in 1980. Instead, annual state pension rises are linked to inflation.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Call for big pension rises
01 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Blair rejects father-in-law's criticism
28 May 00 | UK Politics
Elderly focus of policy battle
24 May 00 | UK Politics
Hague pledges pensions rise
08 May 00 | Business
Pensioners' tax credit unveiled
21 Mar 00 | Budget2000
'Lifting pensioners out of poverty'
09 Nov 99 | UK Politics
No increase in 75p pension rise
18 Sep 99 | UK
Pensioners demand 75 a week
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