Pension change protest picks up a gear with Elgin workshop

THE MORAY WASPI group has hit out at comments made by a UK Government minister suggesting that they should “help themselves by looking for apprenticeship”.

The group of women who are seeking a fairer deal on the equalisation of pension ages between men and women are continuing their fight at Westminster – and are now set to operate a series of workshops in Moray to assist others in lodging complaints against their treatment.

WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality – is a national campaign that grew from the unfair manner in which the UK Government put back the retirement age for women born in the 1950’s not once, but twice – and failed to give proper notification to those involved.

Speaking of the progress made by the movement since the General Election, Sheila Forbes from Moray WASPI said: “Much of the rhetoric [since the election] was around Douglas Ross MP not signing nor intervening during an early day motion debate in the House of Commons following his pledge to support us during the election.

“But this was not news to us in the Moray WASPI Group as we knew why that was – but the really shocking news to us was that the Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, suggested that we should help ourselves by looking for apprenticeships.”

Mr Opperman said that the government had increased apprenticeship opportunities for people of all ages – insisting that the government was doing a ‘significant amount’ to address the individual difficulties being faced by older people attempting to find work.

Mrs Forbes said: “It just goes to show the total lack of respect this Government has for our group of women who have already worked for decades, paid our NI and taxes and built up our skills and experience.

“Some of our members immediately sought out apprenticeship opportunities in Moray – there were around 19 and one caught my eye, that of an apprentice slaughter person.

“We certainly feel that we are the sacrificial lambs of the State Pension Age changes debacle – we do not want apprenticeships, we want our Pensions. We do not want to deny young people starting out on their working lives, the chance of an apprenticeship. We want our Pensions.”

Mrs Forbes added that WASPI has been gathering strength since the election with membership increasing – in particular on the back of Mr Opperman’s remarks.

“Mr Opperman does not appear to have been briefed properly, or maybe he just doesn’t know that the changes to the SPA started with the 1995 Act and were compounded by the 2011 Act,” Mrs Forbes said.

She added: “It means up to a six-year increase in the pension age for millions of women, including the 4440 in Moray, and not the 18 months which he blithely repeated sticking to the script.

“WASPI women are not against the equalisation of the pension age, but the speed with which it was implemented and the lack of warning they were given. This would appear to be maladministration on the part of the DWP so WASPI women across the UK are complaining to the DWP in their droves.”

The Moray WASPI Supporters Group are holding a workshop to help ladies start this complaints process on Saturday (July 22) from 11am at the Inkwell, Elgin Youth Café on St Francis Place.

Women affected by the pension changes who would like to know more about the campaign are invited to attend. WASPI Moray can be contacted by Email or visit their website.