The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign has formed an “interim working group” to help recruit new staff to lead the movement forward, following a split in the leadership.
In a statement published yesterday (3 August), the group revealed disagreements between the five co-founders had “become seriously detrimental to the campaign”, leading three of them to depart.
This came more than a year after the Waspi campaign was set up to fight what campaigners claimed were unexpected changes to state pension eligibility age for women.
The increase to state pension age of 65 for women was originally meant to take place between 2010 and 2020 but in 2011 this was brought forward to 2018. Both sexes’ pension age is currently set to increase to 66 by 2020 rather than by 2026.
Following the split, the remaining founders of Waspi, Anne Keen and Celia Jones, will make up the interim working group, alongside “two very active Waspi women”, Mieke Vrijhof and Pat Tarttelin. Both the latter have a background in the charity sector.
But despite the apparently acrimonious split, Ms Vrijhof attempted to assure the women involved in the Waspi campaign that the leadership shake-up was actually a “huge step forward”.
“The Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign was founded in May 2015 by five ordinary women, who never envisaged that their initial efforts would grow into a huge national campaign,” the group stated.
“We are proud of what has been achieved to date. In order to move forward and convert the support for the campaign into action and a positive outcome for us all, however, we also need to be realistic and acknowledge that the campaign has grown too big to manage for five women with no previous experience of campaigning.”
The organisers said they would recruit people with experience in lobbying, public campaigning, public relations, social media, research, law, finance and fundraising. Ms Vrijhof confirmed the positions would be voluntary.
She told FTAdviser a core aim of the revamped Waspi team was to make the campaign better known. “There are still lots of women around the country who don’t even know they won’t get a pension at 60.”
Ms Vrijhof stressed the campaign was looking, not for a return to the state pension age to 60, but for “transitional arrangements” for those women who were caught unawares by the increase in eligibility age.
She warned politicians to take notice of the campaign’s “grey power”, suggesting they could build momentum to bring down a government in the next general election. However, she said the appointment of new prime minister Theresa May was a positive sign, because unlike David Cameron, she “fits the Waspi profile”, as a woman born in the late 1950s.
Former secretary of state for work and pensions Stephen Crabb said in May that granting concessions on the issue of state pension age was “fiscally impossible”, adding the Waspi campaign had not offered any “fiscally neutral” solution.