SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said Tory ministers must understand that Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaigners in north will not accept their pension entitlements being withheld.
Mr Durkan, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on WASPI, spoke on the issue at a WASPI NI meeting in the Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane on Thursday.
He vowed to continue the fight at Westminster for compensation for women born in the 1950s who have been unfairly hit by rises to the state pension age. Women born on or after 6 April 1951 have been hit by rapid rises. It was set at 60 for women but is equalising with men’s retirement age, and increasing to 66 by 2020.
In the process, some 77,000 women in the north are losing out – leaving, Mr Durkan said, many dreams in tatters as those affected will have to defer retiring by a number of years. Mr Durkan said the good attendance in Strabane “reflects that awareness is growing and valid anger is not ebbing as government ministers presume”.
“The women in attendance were clear that not only were they aggrieved by the time-shift in their state pension entitlements under the 2011 Act, they have never been made aware that a 1995 Act had changed their original expected entitlement date from the age of 60,” he said.
“No one argued against the principle of achieving an equalised pension age for men and women but stressed that such parity should not be executed on a timescale or terms with costly and inequitable personal impacts. The fact that women with birthdays within a year of one another are being told at short notice that their state pension entitlement can be three years apart shows how egregious and capricious this change is.
“The WASPI campaign has already lobbied and petitioned parliament – and working with other MPs, I have secured and participated in a number of debates where government ministers had no credible answers and relied on false arguments.
“Tory ministers seem to presume that the WASPI women will fall in to placid acceptance of the invidious denial of state pension entitlements for which they have made every contribution required from them. The determination and the new awareness which were reflected from the gathering in Strabane shows that the issue is not simply going to go away and must continue to be fought in parliament and in the campaign channels developed by the WASPI women.”