WASPI, the Women Against State Pension Inequality, held a national demonstration at Westminster opposite the Houses of Parliament on March 8, International Women’s Day, which was also Budget Day. Groups and individual supporters from all over the country attended. Many wore black with a sash and a WASPI T-shirt.
The changes to the state pension affect some women born in the 1950s as part of the move to equalise pension ages for men and women, not to 60 but to 65. However, many were not warned that it would effect them, so were left worse off and with little time to prepare for it, say the WASPI campaigners. The changes are a violation of the right to a decent pension in retirement for all women, as well as being a component part of the attack on the pension rights of all working people.
Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement that the changes are a “betrayal of tens of thousands of women who had planned for their retirement based on the 1995 legislation”. See the full statement below.
On the previous day, March 7, Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for industrial strategy, presented a petition to parliament from the WASPI women of Newcastle, also signed by many men, urging the government to think again on the changes which are affecting women financially. She highlighted how these changes disproportionately affect working-class women of that generation, who are more likely to have started work at 15, more likely to be in manual trades, which take a greater toll on the body as it ages, more likely to die younger and less likely to have private pensions. She said, “There are many such women in Newcastle and across the country who wish to highlight the hardship, stress and worry they face as a consequence.” See the full text of the petition below.
It should also be noted that the Pensions Act 2014 denies pension increases to anyone who decides for whatever reason to retire to a country not approved by the government. Countries without such approval include most Commonwealth countries, where the majority of emigrants choose to live to join family already there or for health reasons.
Commenting on the operation of the Pensions Acts, Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary said: “No-one should have lost out financially because of changes they weren’t told about. The government should stop looking the other way and come up with a plan that compensates the millions of women hit by the move. Women who’ve retired or who are nearing retirement shouldn’t be experiencing financial hardship through no fault of their own. Had ministers been more on the ball at the time, the women could have put aside extra money to see them through into their old age. International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity for the government to put right this historic pensions wrong.”
“A betrayal of tens of thousands of women” – Corbyn’s message to WASPI protesters
This is Jeremy Corbyn’s full statement to the WASPI women campaigning on International Women’s Day.
My best wishes and International Women’s Day greetings to everyone supporting today’s WASPI lobby.
You are highlighting a grave injustice. The Coalition Government’s decision to move the goalposts, by bringing the equalisation of the state pension age forward by a further two years to 2018, was plain wrong.
It was a betrayal of tens of thousands of women who had planned for their retirement based on the 1995 legislation.
It was justified by claims Britain needed a dose of austerity – yet at the same time tax cuts worth billions have been given to big companies and the very wealthy.
Today, we can expect the Chancellor to boast that the economy is doing better than expected. But will he do anything to right this wrong? I very much doubt it.
Labour is already committed to extending Pension Credit to help those worst hit by this callous change.
We are also developing solutions for those affected who would not be entitled to Pension Credit. And we will continue to consult with WASPI and others on this as part of our planning for government.
I am sorry I cannot join you today. I will be in the Chamber of the House of Commons for the Budget statement, ready to respond.
My speech will challenge the Government’s policy of endless austerity for the many, alongside generous tax giveaways for their wealthy and privileged friends.
My thoughts are with you today. I congratulate you on your stand and look forward to working with you to achieve justice.
Leader of the Labour Party
Petition – Implementation of the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts
The petition of residents of Newcastle Upon Tyne Central,
Declares that as a result of the way in which the 1995 Pension Act and the 2011 Pension Act were implemented, women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age;
further that hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed on them with little or no personal notice;
further that implementation took place faster than promised;
further that this gave no time to make alternative pension plans;
and further that retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for all women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age.