Removal of Gender Discrimination in Pension Provision

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2013 National Retired Members Conference
5 June 2013

Conference notes that the median income of a woman pensioner is less than two thirds that of a man and that two thirds of pensioners living below the poverty line are women. This shocking injustice is the result of lifelong discrimination at work. In general compared to men women earn less so they save less and so in retirement they are therefore poorer.

Conference notes in particular that:

1) three quarters of part-time workers are women and, while the gender pay gap based on the median earnings of full-time workers has narrowed, the gap between full-time men and part-time women has hardly moved;

2) employers’ failure to make jobs flexible enough to accommodate women’s roles as unpaid carers affects women’s employment rates and earnings. This especially affects older women workers so the gender pay gap widens as retirement approaches.

Conference also notes the Government’s attacks on pensioners and how these have particularly affected poorer pensioners who are mainly women. These include:

A) raising women’s State Pension Age and the Pension Credit qualifying age;

B) raising the Pension Credit Guarantee by less than that of inflation;

C) cutting and now proposing to abolish Savings Credit;

D) cutting Winter Fuel Allowance;

E) proposing to increase the number of years’ National Insurance Contributions needed for a full State Pension;

F) removing Pension Credit from couples where only one partner is over Pension Credit qualifying age; and,

G) ending over-60s’ free swimming.

Conference believes that closing the gender pensions gap is crucial to ending pensioner poverty and therefore that ending sex discrimination must be put at the heart of further pension reform.

Conference considers that:

i) any National Insurance Contribution requirement for a full State Pension ought to be set at a level that does not simply reproduce workplace sex discrimination or penalise women for their role as unpaid carers;

ii) the best route out of poverty is work (providing work pays) so the Living Wage should be set at a level that takes account of the need to save for retirement;

iii) saving should pay too so Savings Credit should be restored to at least its 2010 real value;

iv) campaigns for the Living Wage should concentrate, first, on areas of employment where the gender pay gap is most stubborn; and,

v) there must be no repeat of Labour’s 2007 Pensions Act which left existing pensioners high and dry; further reform must include retrospection so that all pensioners are treated alike never mind when they reached state pension age.

Conference instructs the National Retired Members Committee to discuss these points with the National Executive Council and the National Women’s Committee with a view to UNISON developing a strategy and a programme of work to put an end to women’s poverty in old age