7 Mar 2017

Super age increase 'unfair' on physical workers

6:09 pm on 7 March 2017

People doing physically demanding jobs say they will get the short end of the stick under the government's plan to increase the pension age to 67.

Kiha Lawrence, 66, said his body has had enough.

Fishing industry worker Kiha Lawrence, 66, says his body has had enough. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Prime Minister Bill English yesterday announced his intention to raise the superannuation age from 65 to 67, in six-month increments from 2037 to 2040.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce said the change could be reviewed before it started taking effect to see whether "temporary additional support" was needed for those unable to work past 65.

The Labour Party said it did not support the change, saying people who did manual work already struggled to work through to the current age of eligibility.

Some workers also said they were worried about the impact of another two years on their bodies.

Kiha Lawrence, 66, has worked in the fishing industry for over 40 years.

"I do really physical work, I lift 30kg bins of fish all day, dragging them into the chiller and out again ... Yeah, it's hard work."

He said his body has had enough, and he was retiring next month.

"I've started to feel the aches and pains through my body from my work, that's why I'm leaving - my legs are sore from standing and my back and legs are sore from lifting," Mr Lawrence said.

"People should see what fishmongers do on a daily basis - it's hard work."

Mr Lawrence said he believed the pension age should be staggered depending on what someone did, and he had worked with men who had to leave the job while still in their 50s.

David Topping, 41, agreed. He said his body was already feeling the effect of years of work as a welder and project manager.

"It's a tiring job. By the end of the week you are pretty much knackered, so having to work another two years is not going to be fun.

"We work with heavy steel and loud noise all day every day for six days a week," Mr Topping said.

He did not think he would last to 67 if he continued in his current job, he said.

David Topping, 41, said raising the retirement age was unfair to some workers.

David Topping, 41, says raising the retirement age is unfair on some workers. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

"I would have to change trades or resort to the project management side of things because it's physical and you do a lot of damage to yourself.

"I think retirement age should depend on what you do. I think the guys who do physical work every day should be considered at 60 or even lower.

"Not being unfair to the guys in the office but your job is not as physical - so it's a little unfair, but what can you do?"

Puawhai Thompson, 68, was retiring after working as a nurse for 38 years.

"I've decided I've had enough," she said.

"The job as a nurse is intense. You're dealing with a lot of emotional stuff from patients, you're dealing with the stress of sorting them out and then there's the physical and verbal abuse from the patient and their family."

Ms Thompson cut down to three days a week at 65, and said she did not think people should have to work beyond that age.

"If they're going to keep the age at 67 there needs to be a benefit that people in physical work can access at 65 or earlier if possible."

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