April 22, 2018

An open letter to WASPI

wasp.

VESPA by Dordy

You may recall that I posted once before about WASPI and their campaign to seek some kind of compensation for women born in the 1950’s whose SPA (State Pension Age) was raised from 60 to as much as 66 but who were not informed until it was too late to do anything to cover those extra years  – meaning that thousands of us (not all) will have to work on or face poverty.  

During the past couple of months, I and other ordinary members of WASPI have been subject to a flurry of emails from the current board of directors and, disturbingly, from a group of members appearing to represent a group of resigned directors wanting to regain control of the organisation. Alarm bells rang when the very first email asked me to take part in a ‘vote of no-confidence’ in the current board of directors, and another email from the current board of directors claimed that the ex-directors had retained the company database and were using it to email the membership to force a vote of members about who should run WASPI.

Since then hardly a week has gone by without an email from the ‘ex-directors or their representatives, and the current directors, talking about AGM’s and EGMs and proxy votes and who-has-done-what.  My first thought was – ‘What the hell is going on?’ my second was: ‘Data security breach!’ Why has no one done anything about it?

The government seem intent on ignoring us until we all pop our clogs when the problem will, they no doubt hope, go away, and I now  have little faith in WASPI as an effective campaigning force for 1950’s women.  So, with little expectation that it will make any difference whatsoever, here is my response to all that, in the form of:

An open letter to all those involved in the WASPI dispute over who should run the organisation and how:

 

Dear past and present WASPI directors/committee members,

As an ordinary member of WASPI who does not personally know any of the previous or existing board/committee members, and who has paid my membership fee like thousands of other women who were hoping that WASPI might be a force for good in the campaign to seek some kind of recompense for those women born in the 1950s who have been left in financial difficulty following the DWPs failure to adequately inform most of us, I have watched with disbelief and dismay as this very unprofessional and unseemly ‘WASPI civil war’ has unfolded.

It is my understanding (from the various emails from both factions (the current board of directors and the ex-directors/a group of members’ representatives) that the ex-directors may have passed access to the private WASPI database – or at the very least a list of members email addresses –  to a group of women who describe themselves as the ‘Members’ Committee’ and ‘Members’ Representatives’, with the apparent intention of forcing the resignation of the current board of directors so that the ex-directors can force a members vote and re-take control. As I understand it, THIS WOULD APPEAR TO BE A CLEAR BREACH OF THE DATA PROTECTION ACT. (Not to mention that calling for a vote so that they can re-take control sounds a bit like the sort of thing a tin-pot regime might do – how do they know they will even win?)

Now I am not a lawyer (but I would very much like to hear from someone who is about the legality of what has been happening), but surely, ONLY THE EXISTING BOARD OF DIRECTORS SHOULD HAVE ANY LEGAL RIGHT TO BE EMAILING THE MEMBERS FROM THE OFFICIAL DATABASE?  Can someone with legal qualifications please confirm or refute this?

The current board of directors (whatever one may think of them) appears to be in the quite ridiculous position of having to create an alternative membership database because the ex-directors have held onto (and it seems may have restricted their access to?) the original membership database. The ex-directors/Member’s Committee (again none of whom I know personally) are stating that no-one on that new database can be allowed to vote in the EGM they are proposing, for fear of ‘vote-rigging’. Is this legal? Members are members, regardless of who has access to their email addresses. I am surprised the law has not been able to restore access to the database to the current board and remove it from the unauthorized people who have been using it. Why? Surely the law is the law?

For those reading this who are not too sure what is going on: As I understand it from reading the many confusing emails that have been sent to myself and other members during the last couple of months, THE PREVIOUS BOARD OF DIRECTORS RESIGNED due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ –  Okay, fair enough, but they appear to have RETAINED THE DATABASE AND ACCESS TO MEMBER EMAIL ADDRESSES, instead of handing it all over to the new board of directors. Is this legal?

The ex-directors who have (apparently) retained access to this database seem to have been using it – either themselves or by passing access to the ‘Members’ Committee’ – first to call for a vote of no-confidence in the current board of directors, and now to organise an EGM at which thousands of current members are being emailed and asked to vote for new directors. Is this legal?

I am pretty certain that most of those members (including myself) WILL HAVE NO IDEA WHO TO VOTE FOR BECAUSE WE DO NOT ‘KNOW’ THESE PEOPLE well enough to judge who should be a director.  It is my personal opinion that in order to ensure there is no repeat of this situation a year or two down the line, that NO PAST OR PRESENT WASPI DIRECTOR SHOULD BE ELIGIBLE TO STAND.  Sadly, it would no doubt waste a lot of valuable experience and skill, but it would seem to be a sensible precaution.

On a personal note:

  • I do not like the fact that my personal email address has been disclosed to people who (I believe) have no legal right to use the database or to contact me, no matter how deeply they feel about their cause. I’m pretty sure they have broken the law.
  • I  was at first bewildered and then increasingly annoyed by the number and content of a flurry of emails, all from the same email address but clearly from both ‘camps’ (current directors and ex-directors). It has been hard to know which are legitimate. I am not one of the active campaigners, but the hours I have spent reading the emails, ruminating on it and finally on writing this post, would have been better spent telling other women about the cause and using social media to promote it. Now, I’m not sure it is worth it anymore.
  • So I would like, please, the two ‘camps’ to explain publicly to me, other  members and to other interested individuals, what this ‘in-fighting’ is really all about; why have so many directors resigned and why have the ex-directors/other members felt it necessary to ‘hijack’ a database they should surely no longer have access to. Do you really think WASPI can recover from this? I think you will lose a lot of members, and I will probably be one of them.

As far as I can make out after reading all the emails sent by both parties,  it would appear to be about personality clashes within the board of directors, and disagreement about how the WASPI campaign should proceed, After hearing from one party that unauthorised filings had been made on the WASPI database at Companies House, I looked at the filing history; it is a litany of appointments and resignations. No way for me or anyone not ‘in the know’ to tell which are legitimate filings and which are not. Anyone can look this up for free:  Companies House

  • I do not particularly care about the personality clashes within the WASPI leadership. I only want the WASPI officials to crack on with the task in hand, at which they were doing so well until the derailment!  I realise that the issues which led WASPI to be founded in the first place are very emotive, I am grateful that enough women cared to do something about it, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of each and every past, present and future board member/director. But this current situation is helping no-one, and certainly not instilling in me any kind of confidence that the campaign can ever recover. Bad enough that 1950’s women get ‘stick’ from members of the public who want to know why we in particular deserve compensation when there are others with equal just cause; others who think we are complaining about having to work until we’re sixty but who don’t understand that it is not the new SPA as such we object to, but the way we were left largely ignorant of the change until it was too late to compensate… and  now people are laughing at the WASPI women who are fighting among themselves. Very funny (not).

It seems to me, as an unbiased member (because, again, I do not personally know any of these ladies) that the focus here should be on how to get born-in-the-1950’s women’s’ plight taken seriously by those within government with the power to make some kind of recompense, rather than fighting about how to do it. The government/DWP must be laughing fit to bust right now, don’t you think? How can WASPI (as an organisation) ever hope to be taken seriously if the people involved can’t even agree on how to carry the campaign forward?  You only have to look at the comments on the FT articles to see how people are laughing at the women as they fight amongst themselves. Very funny (not). If the two ‘sides’ can’t agree, then perhaps the ex-directors should set up a new company and a new campaign, and run it the way they want to.

In conclusion:

I am very, very disillusioned by the whole thing. Successive governments have badly let millions of 1950’s women down (we are not alone, of course, but this is about WASPI) and are unwilling even to apologise, let alone do anything to help those they have so badly treated. Now the very people (hearts in the right place but…) who wanted to try and convince the present government to do the right thing are shooting us all in the foot too.

So, Ladies, please, please stop this bickering, bury your differences, and act like grown-ups. Your fellow 1950’s women are counting on you!

    —————————————-

Disclaimer: the views in this article are mine and mine alone, as are any errors/misunderstandings of the situation within WASPI.  I salute all the ladies who have worked so very hard to spread the word.  I have not named names, but the following links may be of interest:

https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/02/21/waspi-directors-resign-due-to-irreconcilable-differences/

https://www.ftadviser.com/state-pension/2018/04/05/waspi-board-warns-of-member-data-breach/

https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/04/11/waspi-infighting-damages-dwp-legal-battle/

Congratulations to everyone who made it this far, and thank you for reading! Despite the recent setbacks, the WASPI website has lots of useful information about how you can lobby your MP to take up our cause. We are many… our MPs are few!

Elaine

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About EJ Jackson

I write, therefore I am! Love film, theatre,TV and books: science-fiction, thrillers/crime and mystery. Geek, wife and mum, sister. Created the official Appreciation Society for 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', www.zzz9.org Author of 'The Journey & Other Short Stories' (August 2014) and 'The Methuselah Paradox' (August 2016) and 'Minding Mama' (tbc). Lots more in the pipeline! "Imagination is the highest kite one can fly." - Lauren Bacall

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1950's, STATE PENSION AGE, WASPI

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