Women and Pensions

Back to all Motions

2005 National Women's Conference
12 February 2005

Conference recognises that changes to the state pension system in recent years in terms of contributions, retirement age and earnings on which pensions are based puts women at an unfair disadvantage. The existing state pension alone is insufficient to provide for basic needs and requires a large number of recipients to undergo the humiliation of means-testing to obtain more. The majority of applicants for pensions credit are women. Women part-time and term time only workers are still being discriminated against in respect of access to pensions.

This discrimination cannot be allowed to continue. Low paid women workers suffer during employment and that continues into their retirement. Many of these women are dependent on the state benefit system to supplement their earned income and retirement provision. In particular we are concerned that women have been denied their rights in relation to the benefits accrued through the full/half stamp system. Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to investigate the full extent of this disparity and report back the findings to Conference.

Employer-based pension schemes are in decline, especially those based on final salary benefits. Women are disadvantaged for two main reasons:

1)their average wages are often less than their male colleagues; and

2)their inability to contribute fully for the necessary 40 year period. (Part-time working provides part-time contributions).

The increased use of annualised hours contracts is reducing the hourly rate of many UNISON women members, some below the national minimum wage, who are already in receipt of low pay.

The government’s establishment of the National Women and Work Commission is welcomed by Conference. This is an opportunity for the National Women’s Committee to ensure that UNISON women are given a voice to promote our agenda on equal treatment in pension access and provision for part-time and term time workers.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to:

a)continue to work with the national pensions campaign, to highlight issues faced by women on pensions as a matter of urgency;

b)campaign to remove the discriminatory practices which leads to unfairness of treatment in pensions for low paid part-time and term time only workers;

c)campaign to lower the threshold for access to the basic pension provision;

d)ensure that these issues are raised with the National Women and Work Commission.

Part of the campaign should provide an information pack as soon as possible with a hard hitting message in a simple format.

The National Women’s Committee should encourage all regional women’s committees to organise meetings around the campaign and to ensure young members are included.