The WASPI women are going to have to be compensated, regardless of who wins the election

There is one fascinating exception to the failure of the parties to engage with fundamental issues: that is, the position of the WASPI women, two and a half million women who have had their expected retirement dates delayed and their pension entitlements radically cut.  This is yet another legacy of bad policy decisions taken in recent years.  It has led, however, to Labour and the SNP making a commitment to compensate the women for the loss of rights that have been earned through contributory benefits.

The current position of the UK government has some parallels with the behaviour of Glasgow Council, which persistently underpaid women who ought to have had equal pay.  Both of these problems have come about because the public authorities were looking for ways to save money, and they thought that it was easier to do that by taking the money from women, largely because women’s incomes are considered secondary to men’s.  In both cases, the injustice is obvious and palpable.  And in both cases, the main ground for resistance now is simply how much it will cost to set the issue right.

The WASPI women are set to appeal from the case they lost in the High Court.  They lost that case mainly because they tried to argue that their treatment was discriminatory; that argument failed because as policy intended to equalise the position of men and women is the opposite.  For what it’s worth, however, I think that ultimately they are going to win, because there are other, stronger objections to the policy.  The case has direct parallels with a human rights case taken in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in Five Pensioners v Peru.  The decision in that case centred on the suspension of pensions by the Peruvian government.  Disappointingly, the court did not attach much weight to the idea that social security was a human right; but they did think that there was a human right not be be deprived of one’s property, and that a contributory pension was the property of the pensioner, not the government.

The government can’t rely on its power to make the rules for social security.  The DWP’s rules are mainly determined through secondary legislation, but secondary legislation can’t trump human rights or property rights.  That has implications for any future government.  The bill to compensate the WASPI women is going to be presented in due course, and regardless of the political complexion of the government, it is going to have to be paid.


One thought on “The WASPI women are going to have to be compensated, regardless of who wins the election”

  1. Glad to see you draw the analogy with the equal pay issue in Glasgow. Let me indulge by sharing my wife’s experience. She started full time employment with the then Strathclyde Regional Council in 1975 (when it was created) on leaving school. She did have some other ambitions involving study but family finances precluded that option. She worked continuously in low to medium range admin jobs until (thankfully as it turned out, see below) 2010ish when she retired early on the grounds of redundancy (Glasgow Council saving money/shedding staff over a number of budget cycles). So, she worked for 35 years or so paying her taxes and NI. She was due her state pension at 60 but this changed to 65 and is now 66, some 4 years away. In spite of a healthy lifestyle, she was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. After surgery and treatment she is coming to the end of her 5 year monitoring cycle in 2020. However, in statistical terms, her life expectancy has been reduced by a range of 5 to 15, perhaps 20 years, depending on individual circumstances (we had to research all this when considering treatment options). Fortunately, her early retirement employer pension sustained her (and me) as she would only have received some ESA benefit for perhaps 6-9 months during treatment and then be expected to return to work, as many folks have to do. So, whilst in a better financial position due to her early retirement employer pension (the local govt scheme is one of the most generous compared to private sector), she still has to wait another 4 years to access her state pension. Not a political animus like me, nonetheless she feels cheated by the state and I think she is right to do so. Many of the WASPI money are less fortunate financially; as with the equal pay, some have and some will die before the wrong is made right. Many are doing hard physical jobs when they should be enjoying their retirement from work; others are forced on to a benefits regime designed for fit people up to their 50s or so, not folks at 60 plus.

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