BLOG: What Waspi want

Written by Natalie Tuck

In a blog published last week I raised some questions on the aims of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign.

This related to the ‘fair transitional arrangements’ the women are calling for and the Facebook statement on the Waspi page, which asks the government to put “all women born in the 50s, or after 6th April 1951 and affected by the changes to the state pension age, in the same financial position they would have been in had they been born on or before 5th April 1950."

Firstly, asking for ‘fair transitional arrangements’ is very vague; I want to know what the fair transitional arrangements the Waspi women are asking for, are. Secondly, my own logic of the Facebook statement would suggest that the women cannot be put in the same financial position without receiving their state pension at 60, or by being given a money equivalent.

Unfortunately, at this stage Waspi are not willing to go on the record about what they want as a potential outcome. However, below are details of what Waspi openly say they do not want, which rules out several options.

Waspi co-founder Lin Phillips stated means testing would not be a resolve for several reasons: “There are misconceptions around occupational pensions, many women have a small occupational pension that would not be enough to live on but would exclude them from means tested benefit, this would mean they still will not be able to meet commitments and would still be in poverty.”

She added that some have a small savings pot, so they could also be excluded and then would have to live from the pot until state pension age, which would mean the safety net they managed to get together will be eroded and they will be poorer again when they reach their state pension age.

Their press relations officer has also said the campaign group do not want a new timetable. The biggest injustice, Phillips said, was the 1995 Pensions Act, which equalised the state pension age for men and women at 65, so reverting back to that timetable does not seem to appeal either.

Phillips instead reiterated her point that Waspi are asking for fair transitional arrangements as many now have a six year wait for their state pension age with only two years’ notice.

Phillips, who herself made sure she paid her full National Insurance contributions her whole life, told me that as a female Barclays employee, she was excluded from the company pension scheme. As a women, she stood at the school gates daily to collect her children from school, whilst her husband built up his career. Phillips returned to work part-time at Halifax when her youngest went back to school, and as a part-time worker was again excluded from their company pension scheme.

“You don’t think at that age, pensions weren’t such a huge thing, so you don’t even realise the impact it’s going to have on you later on,” she stated.

I sympathise with Phillips, I firmly believe these women have been given a great injustice. As, Phillips herself stated, these women have faced inequality their whole lives, from missing out on opportunities at school, to missing out on careers to bring up children and missing out on workplace pensions.

“You can’t suddenly bring in equality when there has been inequality for all that time as there is going to be a group, which are really badly hit, in this case that is the 1950s women that Waspi are campaigning for,” she explained.

“We want the government to talk to us. We’re reasonable, we understand that there’s lots of demands on the government’s money when they are allocating finances, but they must address this. You can’t just say there’s no money; it was one of the biggest savings that the government made at that time, we should not have borne the total burden of that. We’re sensible, we’re reasonable and we want the government to communicate with us, let’s just find a solution that we’re all happy with,” Phillips stated.

Whilst I support the campaign’s call for some sort of transitional arrangements (despite not really knowing what they are) I remain confused as to why Waspi will not publicise exactly what it is they want; surely this would benefit their campaign? To have a clear goal and outcome, which they can put to the government and negotiate. At the moment, they are waiting for the government to propose something to them, but why would the government do that?

Phillips is correct, the government is being pulled in all directions; the junior doctors, took to striking again last week, despite this, health minister Jeremy Hunt is planning to enforce a new contract on them.

Up to now, the women have done an excellent job in raising awareness of their situation and getting the debate in parliament. This Conservative government, however, remains steadfast in dismissing it completely. The Waspi women can’t strike and cause public disruption. I’m not sure they can do much more to get the government to take note. I do believe however, that if they want to enter talks with the government then they need to state what they want.

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