UNISON puts its weight behind BackTo60 women’s pensions campaign

UNISON is putting its weight behind the campaign for full restitution of the state pension to 3.8 million women born in the 1950s.

The women, supported by BackTo60, lost their pension after the pension age was raised from 60 to 66. Some of them are facing up to a six year wait. Many are in poverty, some have had to sell their homes and others are struggling to work suffering from health problems.

They are awaiting the result of a judicial review brought by BackTo60 represented by Michael Mansfield to see if they have won their case – following the success of union action which has seen firefighters, the police and judges win their pension cases at the High Court.

UNISON’s national equalities secretary Gloria Mills backed the campaign group after meeting BackTo60 organiser Joanne Welch.

The union is supporting a Parliamentary motion signed by 190 MPs from all parties calling on the government to agree to full restitution of their pensions – using a special temporary measure to compensate the women under the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Discrimination against Women – CEDAW – which the UK ratified in 1986.

It is same process that allowed the Labour Party to introduce all women short lists for MPs to improve women’s representation in Parliament.

Gloria Mills said: “UNISON has over one million women members and quite a number have been affected by the raising of the pension age for women to 66 – having to work longer under difficult circumstances.”

Gloria and UNISON senior vice president Sian Stockham recently took a letter to Downing Street alongside Labour MEP for Wales Jackie Jones and BackTo60 pressing the women’s case. Gloria also raised the issue to loud applause during a debate at last week’s TUC.

Next week the union will be distributing leaflets backing the cause and putting their case at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.

Successive governments have put up the pension age – starting with a decision by Peter Lilley, the social security secretary, in John Major’s Tory government, in 1995. Since 2010 the proposals have been implemented and the pension age was increased to today’s 66 by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Governments have argued there is no money to pay pensions for women at 60 and increasing longevity makes this difficult. But a decision by the Thatcher government in 1988 to end the contribution to the National Insurance Fund from the Treasury set up by Beveridge has starved the fund of £271 billion over 24 years and longevity has stalled since 2011 – and actually fallen in poorer areas of the country including north of Glasgow and Blackpool.

Gloria Mills says full restitution for this particular group – which includes UNISON members – is the only way forward.

Joanne Welch said: ”We are delighted that UNISON is supporting us and wants full restitution.”

This article was originally written by David Hencke and published at union-news.co.uk on 18th September 2019.

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