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2017 National Women's Conference
1 January 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 in 1995 included into the Pension Act (1995) provision to raise the pension age of women from 60 to 65 so that it would be in line with men’s retirement age. The Conservative led Coalition government’s Pension Act of 2011, implemented a much faster timetable for bringing in the changes.

Whilst it is true that the equalisation of state pension age was the right decision for the government to take in meeting equality obligations and that men are affected, the impact on is greater as women 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 creates another barrier to women who are unable to comply with this requirement and achieve the maximum state pension.

Retirement plans for some women have been shattered with devastating consequences. When this group of women started work they were often paid much less than men and often excluded from workplace pension schemes. This 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 losses of up to £15,000 whilst not having been given enough notice to make alternative plans for their retirement.

Working longer – or working at all – will not be possible for all. An employment history of part-time, low-paid jobs is fairly typical for this generation of women. They raised children at a time when childcare was at best patchy and at worst non-existent. They have been dealt a ‘double whammy’. They have been told they should be working up to the age of 65 and older but when they apply for jobs there appear to be barriers to them not being offered them. In addition to this many women find themselves redundant or caring for elderly relatives and grand-children.

Women up and down the country have felt so aggrieved by the changes that they have come together and set up a group called WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality). WASPI are fighting the injustice done to women born on or after 6 April 1951 regarding the changes to their state pension age. They are currently campaigning for improved transitional arrangements to be put in place.

WASPI have undertaken extensive research in their campaigning efforts to get the current government to re-think the timetable in order to make it a much fairer transition for women affected by the changes. The Conservative government of 1995 completely ignored the recommendations that between 10 to 15 years notice should be given to women who would be affected by the changes. The Conservative government then and now continue to show a blatant disregard for women by (a) ignoring the advice from the Turner Commission and Saga in 1995 to give a notice period to women, (b) sending letters to some of the women to be affected 14 years after the 1995 Pension Act was enacted, and (c) speeding up the original timetable of implementation leaving hundreds of thousands of women out of pocket. Many women claim that they were only notified about any changes when the coalition government announced the speeding up of the original timetable, whilst some still say they have never received a letter at all. The issue is not about the fact that women and men will retire at the same age, the issue is about the unfairness in which the changes to women’s state pensions are being implemented. One example of this is that women of a similar age could have disproportionately longer to wait for their pension, for example a one year difference in a woman’s date of birth can make an almost three year difference to their state pension age!

Conference recognises the campaigning and negotiating work that UNISON does on behalf of members on pensions. 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 calls upon the national women’s committee to work with the NEC and other relevant bodies in UNISON to use whatever means possible in the campaign to:

1) To campaign for all women born on or after 6 April 1951 and to urge the government to look at improved transitional arrangements for them.

2) To liaise with Labour Link to bring this issue to the notice of MPs in all parties.

3) To work with the WASPI campaign, where appropriate, on a fair deal for women and encourage regions, branches and members to make links with their local WASPI campaign..

4) Campaign against the ageism which presents additional barriers to older women in the labour market.

5) To campaign for all affected women members to write to their MPs and also the DWP.

6) Develop information leaflets and a briefing sheet so that branch women’s officer and branches can raise awareness of the campaign and encourage support at a local level and in particular with employers.

7) Continue 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;

8) Ensure young women and future generations have access to good pension provisions.

9) In the longer term, campaign for a reduction in the equalisation age to 60;

10) Campaign for an adequate, universal, basic state pension for all citizens.

11) To report back to the 2018 Women Members Conference on actions taken and what has been achieved.