Grassroots trade unionists fund BackTo60 films to boost pensions campaign
A new film highlighting the triple whammy facing 3.8 million 1950s-born women seeking the full restitution of their pensions from the age of 60 has been launched with the help of grassroots trade unionists.
Two active trade union grassroots campaigners from the country’s biggest unions, UNISON and Unite, raised more than £3,400 towards a £10,000 crowdfunding campaign by BackTo60 aimed at producing two films this month.
BackTo60 is returning to the Court of Appeal on July 21 to try and overturn a ruling last year by the High Court which rejected their case for the restitution of their pensions and compensation. All the women were hit by the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 and many were not informed of the changes by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The two campaigners, both women’s officers, Mac Hawkins from the Caerphilly branch of UNISON, and Louise Matthews, from Unite’s Southampton branch, launched vigorous campaigns locally to raise the money. Mac Hawkins received support from the Wales region of UNISON and Louise Matthews from Unite’s Equality Team and Unite Companions.
UNISON last year put its weight behind the campaign for full restitution of the state pension to 3.8 million women born in the 1950s.
The film highlights the hardship facing women, who are hit by poverty caused by austerity, the pension delay and the effect of the coronavirus on top of ill health. Many of the women who donated to the crowdfunder are featured in pictures at the beginning of the film.
But it is also a film of hope highlighting a campaign to get the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to investigate the women’s case. The UK signed up to the convention under Margaret Thatcher, but successive governments have never incorporated it into UK law.
Professor Jackie Jones, former Labour MEP for Wales, points out on the film that CEDAW may well launch an inquiry into how badly the UK treated 50s women, shaming the country internationally.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School, warns in the film that those who are over 60 are at special risk from Covid-19 despite the government saying it is the over 70s who should be shielded or meet very few people.
The film also reveals the fact that between 1983 and 2018 some 4.6 million men over 60 got auto credits paid by the state towards their pensions to get them off the dole figures. Women born in the early 1950s were supposed to get them from 2010 to 2018 but this was cancelled in 2009 after the financial crisis.
This issue could be raised by Michael Mansfield, the human rights lawyer, who is acting for the 50s women, at next month’s appeal. The DWP maintained in the judicial review that the rise in the pension age for women was an equality measure without disclosing that many men over 60 had their national insurance paid by the state.
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