Within the space of a week, workers in Stevenage have been served a double helping of terrible (state pension age increases) and brilliant news (the Supreme Court decision that employment tribunal fees are unlawful).
State pension age changes will cost an estimated £10,000 extra per person, and affect over 11,000 people in Stevenage alone (those born between 6 April 1970 – 5 April 1978). This is an enormous sum of money at a time of unprecedented inequality, and further suggests that greater pension age misery is on the horizon for people born after April 1978. Bizarrely, the Tories didn’t mention raising the state pension age in their 2017 General Election manifesto.
On a much brighter note, the announcement that employment tribunal fees, introduced by the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition government in 2013, have been deemed illegal, following a lengthy legal battle won by the trade union, Unison, must bring great joy to countless people in Stevenage. For many, the cost of these fees are more than they earn in a month, and have meant that people who had been unfairly dismissed could not afford to seek justice after being sacked. It is wonderful news to hear that the government will now be reimbursing people these costs though it is a pity this decision did not come sooner for so many. Justice for all workers sacked without the ability to challenge their employers must now be the next step in rectifying this debacle.
Having been made aware of mail sent to local residents from our Tory MP on this very matter, his lack of support for our residents being forced to pay thousands of pounds to access justice deserves to be highlighted following the Supreme Court ruling. It is a pity he didn’t Stand Up For Stevenage in 2013, when he was absent from the vote in Parliament on introducing employment tribunal fees.
Employment and pension rights are crucial for ensuring that all of us are guaranteed a decent standing of living whilst in work, and when we retire. These must be protected and extended. I encourage everyone reading this article that if they are not already, to join a trade union and join the Labour Party to help fight these draconian changes to employment law (please see the links below).
Both of these recent news items serve as timely lessons to us all as to how far the Tories and Liberal Democrats are prepared to go to inflict austerity budget cuts, pass more anti-working-class laws, and keep all of us working into increasingly older ages. This is a victory for the workers in a battle for employment justice, but all our efforts are still required to reverse the backwards steps taken over recent years.
County Councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell – Old Stevenage Division