UNISON and the WASPI campaign

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2017 National Delegate Conference
23 February 2017

Conference is aware that in recent years governments have increased the state pension for all women born on or after 6 April 1951.

The Conservative government’s Pension Act (1995) included the provision to raise the pension age of women from 60 to 65, in line with men’s retirement age. The subsequent Pension Act (2011) implemented a much faster timetable for bringing in the changes.

Whilst the equalisation of State Pension Age was necessary to meet equality obligations, the impact of the equalisation and subsequent raise in the State Pension Age is greater on women, who are historically significantly lower paid and more likely to have to rely on their state pension alone.

Further, account has not been sufficiently taken of women’s childcare and caring responsibilities; the greater likelihood of them working part-time; and the qualification period in respect of paid employment which creates another barrier for women who are unable to comply with this requirement and achieve the maximum state pension.

Retirement plans for these women have been shattered with devastating consequences. When this group of women started work they were generally paid much less than men and often excluded from workplace pension schemes. Their generation has benefitted little from the social and legal changes that have improved working women’s lives and yet they are now being asked to shoulder much of the burden of equalisation with men. This change will affect over 2.5 million women suffering huge financial losses whilst not having been given enough notice to make alternative plans for their retirement.

Women who had anticipated an earlier retirement are now facing redundancy as public sector cuts bite. Further, many employers are reluctant to employ older workers, and many women of the “sandwich generation” are called on to care for elderly dependants and grandchildren.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign was established to fight the injustice caused to women born on or after 6 April 1951, and for transitional arrangements to be put in place. They do not dispute the need for equalisation of the State Pension Age for men and women.

They have challenged the government who ignored the Turner Commission and SAGA recommendations that between 10 and 15 years notice should be given to women who would be affected by the changes; failed to notify many thousands of women of the changes; and accelerated the timetable without due notice.

UNISON has a long history of campaigning and negotiating for decent state and occupational pensions for our members. Now, more than ever, it is essential to continue that fight, and to ensure that women of all ages are aware of the implications of failing to invest in a future pension, and of what the future may hold in terms of their state pension.

Conference also believes that the women who have been so unjustly treated by this and previous governments deserve our support.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Executive Council to work with the National Women’s Committee, WASPI and other relevant bodies to use whatever means possible in the campaign to introduce a fairer transitional arrangement for the women affected.

This work to include:

1)Continuing our support for the WASPI national campaign;

2)Raising awareness of the issue and providing information for branches and affected members on how to lobby their MP and register their interest with the Department of Work and Pensions;

3)Lobbying MPs to support the campaign and fair transitional arrangements for the women affected;

4)Encouraging branches and regions to establish links with local WASPI groups and work with them on the campaign;

5)Continuing to defend and protect members’ rights to fair pay and pensions, including recognition of the impact of low pay and caring responsibilities on many women’s ability to achieve a decent pension;

6)Continuing to campaign for decent pension provision for future generations and a decent, universal, basic state pension for all citizens;

7)Campaigning against the ageism which presents additional barriers to older women in the workforce;

8)In the longer term, campaigning for equalisation in the State Pension Age to 60.