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2012 National Women's Conference
19 October 2011

Conference notes with concern that the proposed changes to public sector pension schemes and the state retirement age are disproportionately impacting on the lives of women.

Women are already statistically more likely to have lower pensions, primarily due to time taken out of the workplace and part-time working to meet caring responsibilities, and low pay affecting both their lifetime earnings and their pension in retirement.

Disabled and Black women statistically have lower lifetime earnings, and are therefore even more vulnerable to pensioner poverty. LGBT women have fought long and hard for equality in public sector pensions including pensions for surviving same sex partners and pensions equality for trans workers, and now face seeing those pensions eroded.

In the current economic climate low paid women in the public sector have also seen their household income reduced and may now see a stark choice between paying pension contributions or meeting household bills and childcare costs.

Many women are already suffering the consequences of being unable to pay into an occupational pension scheme – two thirds of the UK pensioners now living in poverty are women – but research shows that as many as half of all women are still not able to make adequate pension provision for their future.

Meanwhile the accelerated state pension age raise for women has dashed the expectations of working women who will now be forced to work longer. This raises serious questions about the ability of workers in some professions to be able to do their jobs safely and effectively; the lack of opportunities which will be available for younger workers; and the levels of stress and ill health among an ageing workforce.

Conference applauds the public sector pensions campaign led by UNISON, and calls upon the national women’s committee to :

1)liaise with the NEC and service groups to ensure that these concerns are taken on board in UNISON’s pensions campaigning and negotiating agenda;

2)liaise with the NEC to ensure that clear advice is available to members on the benefits of remaining within their occupational pension scheme and the implications of leaving;

3)encourage women members to become actively involved in pensions campaigning, and as pension trustees and champions.

4)work with regional women’s committees to promote the “get campaigning” materials which provide resources and training to assist women in lobbying and campaigning in defence of pensions and other UNISON campaigns.