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Nic Cicutti: Waspi in-fighting needs to stop

Nic Cicutti

Many years ago, when I was in my late teens and an ardent trade unionist, I recall being introduced to the delights of the “compositing meeting”.

Every year, hundreds of branches of our union would send motions for discussion at its annual conference. Many of the motions were on the same subject and expressed analogous sentiments.

Which is where compositing came in. The day before the conference was due to start, delegates with proposals they wished to see discussed by the full conference would meet to try to identify what they had in common with others proposing similar motions.

Horse-trading would ensue, with proponents of motion A merging their version with backers of motion B, those of motion C and so on.

The challenge was agreeing which demands to drop from your own motion in order to group together as many branches as possible behind one set of proposals, without watering down the final composited version so that it became meaningless waffle.

The end result was a compromise, to be sure. There was always the possibility both the more extreme element and the more moderate sides of the argument would be disappointed with the outcome. But at least it allowed a topic to be discussed and a way forward to be agreed – offering the potential to win the argument more widely on the conference floor.

I have been pondering on the virtues of compositing for the past two weeks, ever since reading the ongoing debate in Money Marketing, where various Women Against State Pension Inequality factions have gatecrashed the website and posted scores of comments on their campaign below articles.

Factions falling out

I may be confused but, from what I can make out, there are now at least two separate groupings competing in this area. One is the original Waspi, which wants women born on or after 6 April 1951 to be given  a “bridging” pension to cover the gap from when the women turn 60 until they reach the new state pension age.

They have rejected as insufficient a range of alternatives put forward by politicians (including from the Labour party as well as the Work and Pensions select committee) that would go part-way to meeting the financial problems many women will face as a result of the changes announced in 2011.

Then there is a more moderate grouping: Waspi Voice. This appears to be a clearing house for a range of different ideas as to how to take the campaign forward, including, 63 Is The New 60, where women born between April 1953 and April 1960 would all have a state pension age of 63. Those born after that would have to wait until 66.

If push came to shove, I would personally not be desperately keen on this last proposal, if only for the selfish reason that someone close to me was born in the first week of May 1960.

She would have to wait three years longer to receive her state pension, by virtue of being born five weeks later than someone else who could retire at 63.

Ironically, she and other female friends in their late 50s who are variously affected by the change in state pension ages would rather see something that helps as many women as possible, even if some of them do not get everything they would like to have.

With campaigners falling out with each other, turning down proposals that do not meet every dot, dash and comma of their original aspirations, what is being missed is the fact every year this internecine row drags on between activists themselves, the Government is let off the hook.

And by 2023, of course, the issue will be irrelevant anyway.

“Every year this internecine row drags on between activists themselves, the Government is let off the hook.”

Fighting the good fight 

That would be a tragedy. We have a situation where Labour, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrat politicians are prepared to support women who have only recently discovered they will not receive a pension at the age they expected.

Some Conservative MPs are also highly sympathetic, as is former pensions minister Ros Altmann, who had the unenviable role of arguing against Waspis when in office but has since backed elements of their case.

What is really needed is a spirit of compromise where, for the greater good, one set of proposals is agreed that stands the best chance of success.

It may be the case that some of the Waspis will not like it but it is better to see a measure that helps the overwhelming majority – at least to some extent – than nothing at all in place, in which case everyone loses out.

Another thing that needs to take place is more grown-up discussion between politicians themselves. Right now it looks like each political faction is seeking to score cheap points against each other, simultaneously professing their solidarity with the core of the Waspi argument while lamenting the way the “other side” is not on board over this or that issue. Take the recent row on whether to amend the Pensions Schemes Bill, for example.

We need someone to do some serious compositing. Perhaps it is time for Altmann to dust off her campaigner’s mantle again.

Nic Cicutti can be contacted at nic@inspiredmoney.co.uk

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  1. Andy Robertson-Fox 16th February 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Hopefully if Baroness Altmann dusts off her camaigner’s mantle again she will be donning it once again in support of the frozen pensioner’s who have suffered far longer and continue to suffer far more than the Waspi women.

  2. I still do not get it why should a person born on the same day as me get their state pension 3 years before me just because they are female. It is grossly wrong!!!

    • because women have never had equality in the workplace even more so in the lives of 50s born women who worked in 70s 80s 90s.. working class women whom this hits the hardest could never earn the same as men couldn’t save in private pensions where excluded from work place pensions in the 70’s women where always the ones that had to give up work to look after children when they came along, again meant no money unable to save in a pension during that time finacially women have never been in the same position as men during past times. Now women get a certain amount of free child care not then you had to give up work. If any elderly relative needed looking after it was & still is women that do this again this impacts on their working life meaning earning less money. My husband who is 3 years older than me which is the norm in our age group is impacted by this as he will be 69 by the time I get my pension he does a manual job on shifts he may have to work to my pension age as I have ill health and am only able to work a few hours we are not sure how we will manage finacially if he retires at 65.

      • I have worked in many places and I have never seen any inequality in wages between men and women. All staff with same responsibility and qualifications have always had the same salary. Women did not ‘have’ to give up their job to look after children. This was a decision taken between couples as to whether they would have children and who would then look after them. No one was forced into this position. My wife had to wait three years longer for her pension only getting it last year at 63. But we were well aware of this from her late fifties and when she had to leave employment due to ill health at 59 we did not expect a pension. We had to survive on one salary but it was not a surprise. I agree there was not enough time allowed for women in their late fifties to make alternative plans but there was plenty of warning that it was about to happen and that is when the action should have taken place not after the event.

    • David, I don’t get why men don’t get the point of this campaign. We have said time and again that we have no objection to pension age equalisation. The point is that the govt never had the decency to write and inform us of a four year hike in SPA, back in 1995, and it is only recently that women like myself have found out. Plus they increased our pension age again in 2011, by two years,so we’ve had a double whammy. If I’d had a letter in 1995, I would have happily carried on working another four years. But in 2008 I took the decision to downsize from London and move up north, for health and personal reasons, blissfully unaware of the pension age increase. Having been reasonably well off all my working life, I a man now living a hand to mouth existence, just because the sexist govt deemed us women not worth the price of a stamp.

  3. David, in addition that woman is likely to live longer!

  4. The WASPI women do have a cause to complain but they cannot all win when trying to bring the pension payment dates together where some have to lose something and steps have been made to adjust this to the tune of 1.1Bilion. Regrettably this is unfair to some.
    Andy Robertson-Fiox raises the Frozen pension issue which is not just unfair but blatant discrimination and I hope that he is right that Ros Atmann takes up this cause where the cost is half of that which has already been made to WASPI when Government had said that they could not afford it but miraculously found 1.1Billion while the long standing frozen pensioners still get nothing. The WASPI campaign was able to march in numbers to present their case and have had numerous parliamentary debates – not so the frozen pensioners who cannot afford to muster when living thousands of miles away.
    We have still been offered nothing and some ladies will no doubt be affected if wishing to retire abroad to join their family or for heath reasons.

  5. Given it was the 1995 Pensions Act that brought about this change, other than political point scoring, it seems a bit late in the day to be doing anything about it, whatever the rights and wrongs are.

  6. What is so very unfair about all this is the 2011 accelerated age rise table which was badly worked out and at too short notice! This is an example, a woman born 28/4/1953 received her state pension last July (2016( A woman born 28/4/1954 has to wait for hers until November 2019 which is 3 years 4 months later than the woman exactly one year older! We are not complaining about equalisation and most women have accepted the 1995 rolling scale age rise, it’s the unfairness of the 2011 which is wrong! 1950s women started work at 15/16, before equalisation of wages and most had no access to save for a private pension so now have to work until they drop, beg for benefits or live off their savings (if they have any) The Combined Women’s Action Group of which Waspi Voice is a part, only want the government to meet us half way, women especially those alone, need help and need it now!

  7. As a woman born in October 1953 I will not get my pension until July 2018 2 years wait on top of the 3 years already since my 60th Birthday just because I was born 6 months later than a woman born in April 53, if nothing else we all should get our Pensions in the same year as other born in that year.

    • Patricia Spacey 20th March 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Me too October 53. Also if you go on the state pension check sight mine gives 2 amounts my Retirement date 2018 but also a reduced amound upto 2016 however it doesnt say how to claim the reduced amount and I would accept that.

  8. The problem is the speed of the timetable of the 1995 Act and the major injustice of the 2011 Act.

    DOB 6 March 1950 SPA 60 years
    DOB 6 March 1951 SPA 61 years
    DOB 6 March 1952 SPA 62 years
    DOB 6 March 1953 SPA 63 years
    DOB 6 March 1954 SPA 65 years 6 months (resulting from the 2011 Act)

    State pension age for women had been 60 since 1940 and then the 1995 Act it moved from 60 to 65 over 4 years and 10 months.

    DOB 5 May 1950 SPA 60 years and one day
    DOB 6 March 1955 SPA 65 years

    The 2011 Act moved state pension age from 60 to 66 over 4 years 4 months.

    DOB 5 May 1950 SPA 60 years and one day
    DOB 6 September 1954 SPA 66 years

    The situation was created where women born in ’53 reached state pension age in 5 different years (2015,16,17,18,19) and serious inequalities were created – women born a very short time apart had years difference in state pension age.

    I found out about the 1995 Act when I read about the 2011 Act in the press. At that time I wrote to my MP and the Prime Minister suggesting a fairer slower timetable where state pension age would rise at 6 months per year of age (half the speed of the 1995 Act) to avoid creating these massive inequalities between women. I have continued to write regularly to all Members of Parliament with suggestions and exam type questions. Here is an excerpt from my reply to one of the members of the DWP Select Committee who began his reply to me ‘let me put the record straight on this’ and then proceeded to repeat his mistakes with the dates.

    “Let me put you, the Select Committee and everyone else in Parliament School ‘straight on this’.

    No woman born at any date in 1955 reaches her state pension age at any date in 2020. Every woman born in 1955 will reach her State Pension Age on her 66th birthday in 2021.

    Although it sounds incredible, women born in ’53 reach their State pension age in 5 different years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019; women born in ’54 reach state pension age in 2019 or 2020 and all women born in ’55 reach state pension age on their 66th birthday in 2021. The first woman to have a state pension age of 66 is born on 6 September 1954.”

    I finished that letter with the proposal I have sent on several occasions previously:

    State Pension Age of 63 for all those born from April ’53 to April ’55 who have not already reached their State Pension Age.

    The State Pension Age should then rise at a real 6 months per year (not a Government 6 months).

    DOB 6 March 55 SPA 63 years
    DOB 6 March 56 SPA 63 years 6 months
    DOB 6 March 57 SPA 64 years
    DOB 6 March 58 SPA 64 years 6 months
    DOB 6 March 59 SPA 65 years
    DOB 6 March 60 SPA 65 years 6 months

    After the London demonstration last year I joined Facebook to allow me to comment on the Waspi Facebook page. Whenever I mentioned anything about the particular injustice done to women born at the end of ’53/54 who were in the same class at school as those with a SPA years less than their own my comments were immediately deleted. Other women who suggested compromise solutions (such as Mary Lawson who works so hard campaigning to help others and produces the posters illustrating the injustice which you will find on Waspi Voice) were blocked from commenting on the Waspi Facebook page. Five co-founders had formed the original Waspi group. Three of the original founders (Lin, Marion and Doreen) who had done so much of the initial work were themselves blocked by one of the other co-founders. That is why these 3 original co-founders set up ‘Waspi Voice’ – to allow all women to have a voice and let their opinions be heard. Judy Bywater set up 50s WAG (Women’s Action Group) because she wanted to bring together women (from whichever group) who were prepared to take action not just moan on about how hard done by they felt.

    Waspi Ltd who raised the £100,000 recently through crowd funding to employ lawyers do not think that these compromise solutions are acceptable.

    It is not the women from the different groups who need to agree because this is of course not possible. It is the members of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) who claim to want to help 50s women who need to agree on what they are prepared to support as a possible solution. Only the SNP have so far come up with a proposal. Labour who spoke with passion in all the initial debates have so far come up with hee haw of any substance. (Pension Credit from your 1995 Act State Pension Age anyone?)

  9. If the 1995 pension changes had stayed I would have got my pension in July 2017 at the age of 63yrs and 8 months but now don’t get it for another 18 months when I’m 64yrs 11months and 26days which is far longer than green is saying which is totally unfair when women like me payed into the system for over 40yrs.

  10. 15 February 2017

    The Prime Minister

    Dear Mrs May

    Mental Health and State Pension Injustice

    The Times published a letter today from the CEOs of Mind, The Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness, The Mental Health Network, The Mental Health Foundation and the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The letter is entitled ‘Mental Health Crisis’ and marks one year since the publication of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The writers say ‘In that time we have been encouraged by the initial progress and promises of change from the Prime Minister, who described the “burning injustice” of the current state of affairs.’

    Linda DOB 5 January 1953 SPA 62 years 8 months
    Mary DOB 6 December 1953 SPA 65 years 3 months

    What effect do you think it had on Mary’s mental health when she discovered her life long friend Linda, born earlier the same year would receive her state pension in 2015, while she has to wait until 2019 to receive hers?

    Mary has worked since she was 15 and has never claimed one penny in state benefits of any kind. She has managed (after paying off the mortgage on her small flat) to save £21,500 towards her retirement. Mary received a forecast last year stating she has so far earned an entitlement to £154.48 per week state pension. The statement says in big bold letters ‘£155.65 is the most you can get’. When you reach £155.65, you still need to pay National Insurance until 2019 as it funds other state benefits and the NHS.’ Meanwhile Linda (who had built up a similar entitlement of £154 per week) has been enjoying all the benefits of reaching state pension age since 2015 (heating allowance, travel pass) and gains £20,000 more in state pension than Mary by being born earlier the same year.

    I sent a similar letter to Mr Cameron last year (copies to Chancellor, DWP Ministers etc) after he had spoken at PMQs about the importance of mental health. The reply I received in April said ‘Mr Cameron was most grateful for the time and trouble you have taken to inform him of your views. As both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health are best placed to respond to the matters you raise, he has asked me to forward your correspondence to those Departments so that they may reply to your concerns directly. I hope this is helpful.’

    I have quite a collection of letters from the DWP but I’m still waiting for a reply from the Department of Health.

    Yours sincerely

    Christine Bell

  11. George Morley – The £1.1bn the Government claim as the ‘transitional arrangement’ they have already made slowed the increase for both men and women after they had equalised at SPA65 (DOB 6 November 1953). This £1.1bn therefore benefitted men and women in equal measure.

  12. The facts,figures, the arguments for and against in this thread are impressive………. but they will have all the success of King Canute

    The very true fact is the state pension (however you want to dress it) is; the greatest ponzi scheme the country (maybe the world) has known…….

    It will implode (at some point soon) with all the force of a galactic star creating a black hole which will suck all its wake into its belly.

    I think we all know what the real cure to all this is………

  13. DH – Is part of the cure in Christine’s question below?

    Nic Cicutti – When was the last time you tried to get 10,000 women to agree on something?

    When women were not receiving answers to their questions and getting the standard claptrap letters back from the DWP, I produced the following guide which I emailed to every MP on 26 November.

    DWP Officers and Government Ministers answer some of your State Pension questions:

    Linda: Why am I getting less under the New State Pension system than I was under the old one?

    Answer: That’s not possible Linda – unless you have an old statement to prove that it is and then we’ll amend our forecast. The likely answer is that you’ve worked for much longer – you’d only worked 41 years when we sent you that old statement showing your basic state pension with SERPS and SP2 added. Now you’ve worked 47 years and we are taking off a much bigger chunk for any years spent ‘contracted out’.

    See leaflet WTF 000101 “The Hokey Cokey of the State Pension System”. It was produced by Ex Shadow Chancellor Balls and he will be available soon to man our phone lines (Premium Rate) when he doesn’t pass muster tonight with his Tango.

    Christine: Can I please have my pension at Age 63 in 2017 if I promise to check into one of the St Theresa Dying Rooms which you are opening in 2021 if I’m still alive in 2030?

    Answer: Christine – The Dying Room dates have still to be confirmed. It’s dependent on opening times for the new runway at Heathrow and a hard v. soft boiled Brexit.

    Rita: I don’t understand why my best friend from school, Joan, who is just 6 months older than me gets her State Pension nearly 3 years before me. She’s hopping on and off buses with her free travel pass, has a heating allowance to help her get through the winter and keeps her life savings while I lose all of mine.

    Answer: Rita – That’s just your Donald Duck. When any change is made some people will feel they have lost out. There will be winners and losers. We need multiple £trillions to pay all our unfunded gold plated index linked pensions (UGPILPs). We don’t all possess the wit and charisma of George Osborne to trouser £80k for a half hour speech. Most of us will need our UGPILPs. How many Ritas, Christines and Lindas do you think we need to chuck on the Bonfire of our Vanities to bankroll that? I can assure you Rita, it wouldn’t even touch the sides. I hope this helps.

    26 November 2016
    Christine Bell

  14. When I’m eligible in c.30 years, I doubt there will be a state pension left, all the money I pay in each month will have been spent on providing income to our aging population.

    Not a fun thought, the future.

  15. The government have mismanaged everybodys money except their own they should all be sacked and a complete new government created who know what they are doing.

  16. I was 60 the other day – a milestone in anyone’s life. After working for the last 42 years what did I get from the government for my 60th – nothing. I will have to wait for anotherb6vyears for my state pension. I also found out that I had contracted out when I PAID into my works pension. This means that my state pension will be reduced anyway around 129 pounds pw at today’s rate. I worked full time for most of my working life so have paid thousands in NI contributions. A friend of my same age has always worked 16 hours per week , has a non contributory works pension and will get the full state pension at 66 – she has contributed far less than me but will get 20 pounds plus per week more ! The whole system is unfair and un just- the state pension you get should be based in part on how much you have contributed into it not the number of years only

  17. I have to claim jsa I am 60 my job coach is bullying me constantly. I lost my temper last week. They treat me like I can find a job as easily as a 20 year old. They are so thick and have no insight. I feel suicidal I justhink want to retire

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