Scotland’s women march against May for justice on pensions

Nathanael Williams

Scotland’s women march for justice over pensions and work

WOMEN AGAINST PENSION INJUSTICE (WASPI) across Scotland rallied in Glasgow today (Friday 26 May) to defy UK Prime Minister Theresa May on the issue of pension inequality ahead of the UK’s General Election on June 8.

Marching from George’s Square at noon on a route around the city centre, 150 women from Motherwell, Ayrshire, Dundee, Dunfermline and further afield protested against what they described as the UK Tory Government’s “negligence of duty and care” in ensuring women born in the 50s can access their full entitled pensions.

They were joined by Glasgow SNP candidates and 2015-2017 elected MPs Alison Thewliss, Mhairi Black, Stuart McDonald, Chris Stephens, Magaret Ferrier and Patrick Grady. Glasgow Labour councillor Mathew Kerr also showed his support by marching with the women. In Helensburgh, local campaigners held parades and stalls attended by Brendan O’Hara of the SNP and Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie who have both lent their support.

In Scotland, over 243,900 women are affected by the age change in pension qualification from 60 to 66 and in the UK as a whole, it has impacted on 2.6 million people, meaning a loss of income that would have otherwise been due under the old pension age.

Alison Thewliss, SNP candidate for Glasgow Central said to the gathering: “This is about a bond of trust between the public and the government. Between those women who have worked so hard for all of their lives to be told that they are not worth further consideration or fair treatment by the state. It’s a disgrace.”

Her words were backed up by Labour councillor from Glasgow Matthew Kerr who mentioned that

He said: “Government after government, year after year we are told that there is not enough money to support people properly when they’re in need when they’re old and they need support. Well its time for a change and its time for a government that puts people first.”

Women born on or after April 6 1951 are directly affected by the UK Government’s change despite the coalition agreement that promising no change to the women’s state pension age before 2020.

As a result, the state pension age for women will reach 65 by November 2018 and 66 by the year 2020.

However, according to former pensions minister Ros Altmann, Steve Webb and Iain Duncan Smith had begun proposing changes to the women’s state pension age “within months” of the coalition coming together.

It was originally in 2004 that the UK Government, wrestling over the issue of pension equalisation, sent forecast letters that campaigners said were unclear and received untimely.

According to WASPI the government’s actions left women’s “retirement plans shattered with devastating consequences” as the implemented changes were carried out with “little or no personal notice”. 

A survey, conducted by the UK Government in 2004, found that nearly 25 per cent of women were unaware of the state pension changes.

Former pension minister Altmann said that the UK Government had written letters to women stating what their pension would be but not clarifying that their state pension age had been changed and they were not going to get it at 60. 

Yet the decision to write to them was delayed inexplicably until the financial year of 2009 to 2010, which saw some women get an increase in retirement age of six years with only seven years’ notice.

A spokesperson for WASPI told CommonSpace: “It’s vital now, more than ever that the UK Government listens to these women who have worked all their lives and face real economic danger. During this General Election we must be heard.”

Members of Argyll and Bute WASPI branch will gather tomorrow (Saturday 27 May) to urge local candidates in this year’s UK General Election to back a challenge to the UK Government on its handling of women’s pensions for those born in the 50s. Brendan O’Hara and Mike Russell MSP will attend an event to sign a formal pledge to the women.

Picture: CommonSpace

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