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Trade unions must stop intergenerational conflict

4 September, 2019

How the Society and other trade unions can resist politicians and pressure groups who set one generation against another will be the theme of a fringe meeting at this year's Trades Union Congress (Brighton, 8-11 September).

Jonathan Charles, a radiographer at St George's Hospital, Tooting, will talk about the 'dangerous perception' that his generation, millennials, are worse off because of the success enjoyed by baby boomers.

He will refute the view that older people are hoarding wealth, raiding pensions and depressing the living standards of their own children and grandchildren.

"Growing up in a working-class, industrial city in the Midlands showed me how pension poverty could be rife and the working poor included baby boomers who continued working because retirement was unaffordable," Jonathan commented.

The fringe meeting, Intergenerational fairness - Why solidarity beats conflict every time, will be chaired by Hilary Salt of First Acturial.

She said, "Against a backdrop of budget cuts and austerity thinking, it seems that more and more politicians are happy to exploit generational differences.

"On a range of issues, from housing and pensions right through to the global environment, we see public figures pointing the figure at smug and greedy baby boomers. Older people are all too often portrayed as blocking beds in cash-strapped hospitals or basking in retirement on the manicured fairways of their exclusive golf clubs.

"Meanwhile, millennials can be dismissed as snowflakes, unable to handle hardship and confrontation, floating into university on a superhighway of inflated student numbers and exam grades, enticed by the ensuite bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes of today’s student accommodation."

Hilary continued, "Are these impressions true to the lived experiences of the baby boomer and millennial generations? And, more to the point, are generational differences the real cause of the social ills we face?"

In his address to the meeting, Jonathan will talk about his experience as a radiographer: "I’ve worked with radiographers in their first ever job and radiographers who have been qualified for decades, yet we are under one pensions scheme and profession essentially performing the same role."

Other speakers will include Jennie Bristow, senior lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of Unite.

The fringe meeting is open to all, including SoR members, from 12.45-2pm on Tuesday, 10 September in the Regent Room, The Grand Hotel, King's Road, Brighton. Travel expenses are not paid but there will be free refreshments.

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