UNISON retired members focus on the cost of living crisis

Meeting for their annual conference, delegates also discuss motions on pensions, bus passes and free prescriptions

Delegates sitting at retired members conference 2022

Hundreds of delegates gathered in Telford today for UNISON’s retired members’ conference, in order to decide the union’s priorities for its 167,000 retired members across the country.

Chaired by Libby Nolan, the conference opened with a short speech from the mayor of Telford, Raj Mehta, who thanked members for their work in providing public services that society relies on.

The business of the day was focused on how the cost of living crisis is affecting the retired population, with subjects discussed including:

  • people being forced to choose between heating or eating;
  • bus passes;
  • prescriptions; and
  • the triple lock on state pensions.

Cost of living crisis

Coming on the day that inflation reached 10.1%, the first motion to be unanimously passed was on increased support for pensioners through the cost of living crisis. 

Irene Humphreys, introducing the motion on behalf of the national retired members’ committee said: “Heat or eat is not just a soundbite, it’s a real choice that people are being forced to make. The cap on energy prices is only guaranteed until next year”.

Earlier this year, 5.3 million people in the UK were choosing between heating their home and eating. Conference heard that pensioners are among those most likely to be worst affected by increases in energy costs.

Bob Deacon, speaking on behalf of UNISON Wolverhampton City local government branch, said: “The ‘cost of living’ crisis is misnamed, it’s an ‘opportunity to raise the rate of profit crisis’.” 

Roger Bannister from the North West region told delegates: “Most people within this room can remember when energy supply was provided by nationalised companies, and I can say without any false nostalgia that it was better than how it has become under private ownership”.

Mr Banister added: “I’m sick of the Tory way of running things, and sick of older people suffering as a result of privatised energy control. Let’s take it back into public ownership, and plan it properly for public good, not to private profit”. 

All motions relating to the cost of living crisis were passed unanimously by delegates.


Other motions voted through included calls for the triple lock on pensions to be secured in legislation and for the government to increase investment in social care.

These came before Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed, at the day’s prime minister’s questions (PMQs), that she is “completely committed” to the retaining the triple lock on state pensions, which rules that the state pension must rise each year in line with the highest of three possible figures – inflation, average earnings or 2.5%.

Free prescriptions

One of the longer debates centred on free prescriptions, and the idea floated in February this year by the previous prime minister, Boris Johnson, to raise the age for free prescriptions from 60 to 66.

Introducing the motion, chair of the national committee Rosie MacGregor said: “People aged 60-65 are often prescribed medication for longer-term conditions which they’ll have to take for many years.

“Introducing prescription charges for this age group will mean people don’t take medication, and some patients struggling to make ends meet may be tempted to ration their own medicine or even worse, be tempted to avoid doctors appointments.”

Ms MacGregor urged conference attendees to “stay vigilant” around future threats to free prescriptions, stating: “The government continues to show contempt for pensioners”.

Another delegate noted: “this will have a knock-on effect on people taking their medication. People will be readmitted to hospital”.

Conference also passed motions on free TV licences for over-75s, support for a national care service, improvements to public transport services and a call for UNISON to lobby the government for a commissioner for older people in England. 

In her closing speech (after PMQs), Ms MacGregor said: “Clearly Liz Truss has been listening to us, as today she committed to the triple lock. However, how long is her party committed to keeping her in place?”