PM's wife to oppose unions on pensions in House of Lords

The case against hundreds of thousands of workers - mostly women - getting better pension rights is to be put to the House of Lords by a legal team in which Cherie Booth is a prominent figure. Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, looks at the implications.

The Prime Minister's wife is a senior member of a legal team resisting claims for enhanced pension rights for hundreds of thousands of Britain's lowest paid workers, most of whom are women. As a leading barrister, Cherie Booth would stand to earn a lump sum of around pounds 25,000 plus pounds 2,500 a day for court appearances, although her chambers last night refused to comment on her remuneration.

The critical hearing begins a week on Monday at the House of Lords which will decide whether part-time employees qualify for back payment of pensions bringing them into line with full-time colleagues. Leaders of the Unison public service union yesterday declared their confidence that they would win and that it could cost the Government and the private sector more than pounds 100m.

Apart from her identification with the Labour Party, Ms Booth's involvement is ironic because the additional rates being sought would mean that most of the workers would cease to qualify for social security benefits at a time when the Government is determined to reduce dependency on the state. Doubly ironic is the fact that the Government is one of the employers fighting alongside Ms Booth who is representing local authorities.

Ms Booth will argue that she is simply doing her job and that she is operating on the "cab rank" principal by which barristers simply take the first client that comes along. However, it is not the first time that Ms Booth's career has been at odds with her husband's position in the Labour movement.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, Unison general secretary, said he hoped the Government would accept the fairness of giving part-time workers full pension rights. "New Labour quite properly say they are different and we believe that this is a matter of social justice," Mr Bickerstaffe said. "... If we win it will send a signal to women in particular that they are valued. I would hope that the Government would treat this realistically and that we don't have to fight a rearguard battle. We consider pensions to be deferred payments and we believe that part-timers have been robbed by the system."

In their fight to win equal rights for part-timers, unions have lost cases at an industrial tribunal and in the Court of Appeal. However, they believe that a new ruling from the European Court of Justice last month will mean that the law-lords will give a decision in their favour. The bill for extra pension payments will fall on the Government, local authorities and a number of private employers.

Unison believes that a typical example of a worker who would be affected by the ruling is a woman who worked half-time for her local authority. Her pay would have been around pounds 6,000 a year and the extra entitlement would be pounds 750 a year in pension payments and another pounds 2,250 as a lump sum.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions