date: 21 July 2000
Attention: industrial, legal and pensions correspondents
Lords to decide on part timers and pensions
Six unions supported by the TUC are due at the House of Lords next week for a hearing which will decide the pensions fate of thousands of mainly female part time workers.
The day-long hearing on Monday 24 July follows the judgement made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May which said that part time workers were entitled to equivalent pensions to full time workers.
The ruling by the ECJ brought to an end the six-year campaign involving women workers from six trade unions - public services union Unison, banking union Unifi and teaching unions, ATL, NATFHE, NASUWT and the NUT. Although the Court made its decision on just 22 test cases, around 60,000 part time workers could potentially benefit from substantially enhanced pensions.
The union-backed cases are coming back to the House of Lords for a decision on two points. Before the ECJ judgement, women part timers who had been denied access to pension funds prior to 1994, were only entitled to claim two years backdated pension contributions. The ECJ said this time limit was illegal, and now the three judges in the Lords must decide how far back pension claims can go. The TUC is arguing that women part timers should be able to backdate their pension claims to 1976, the year the ECJ first ruled on pensions.
During the hearing, the Lords will also consider the cut-off point determining the time between a part timer leaving employment and the point at which a claim for backdated pension rights must be made. UK law currently imposes a six month limit. The ECJ said that this was only legal if it was not worse than other time limits in UK law. The unions will be arguing for a six year limit, as applies in breach of contract cases.
The women who will be awaiting the Lords decision - which is not expected until the autumn - are mostly retired. They worked in both private and public sector organisations which, until six years ago, did not allow part-time employees to pay into company pension schemes. Following a 1994 European Court ruling which found this treatment of part-time workers discriminatory, part-time workers in the UK were allowed to sign up for company pensions in the same way as their full-time colleagues had always done.
However a long legal argument about how far back pension rights should be allowed ensued. Employers argued that only two years back pension contributions needed to be paid, while unions claimed that the back dating should take place to when European law first required equality in pensions - 1976. This formed the basis of the ECJ's May judgement.
TUC General Secretary, John Monks said: "Before the European ruling, many part time workers faced a very uncertain future. Now many of the women will be assured financial security when they retire. But the amount of backdated pension they can look forward to depends very much on the cut-offs and time limits decided by the Lords. Thousands of women will be pinning their hopes on the arguments put by the trade unions' legal team."
Notes to Editors:
All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen on 020 7467 1248 or 076 99 744115 (pager)
Press release (600 words) issued 21 Jul 2000
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-760-f0.cfm
printed 24 May 2013 at 09:36 hrs by 18.104.22.168