UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

TUC: A workplace agenda for women‏

Clare Williams
Equality is at the heart of everything UNISON stands for and Equality Impact Assessments should be a critical tool in challenging cuts to essential public services. However the new watered down Equality Act no longer prescribes EIA's and with the Equality and Human Rights Commission facing 50% cuts it is unlikely that this tool will be as effective as we would wish.

Eleanor Smith Vice President in supporting the motion strongly urged all unions to campaign to ensure that comprehensive and effective EIA's are carried out in every workplace and we all mount a vigorous campaign to remedy the eqality deficit in trade union collective bargaining.

In an outstanding speech, Clare Williams (pictured) on behalf of the TUC Women’s Conference powerfully moved the motion A Workplace Agenda for Women. Recognising the past achievents of the TUC in winning rights on family-friendly working; doubling of maternity pay; the National Minimum Wage; childcare; part-time and flexible working; unionlearn, training; the gender duty and tackling domestic violence, Clare praised “the courage and commitment of those women who campaigned hard and tirelessly to win rights for working women”.

“Women such as Mary Macarthur, who in 1910 led the women chainmakers in a ten-week strike for a minimum wage and won an historic victory.

And, the women machinists at Ford who led the campaign for equal pay – and whose struggle is now portrayed in the film ‘Made in Dagenham’. But as she said “Forty years on, we are still fighting the battle to close the gender pay gap which, today, stand at 17 per cent for full-time workers, and 38 per cent for part-time workers”.

This Tory-led Coalition Government is seeking to undo the advances of the last decade – seeking to dilute the specific gender equality duties in the public sector and dithering on whether to bring in modest measures like voluntary pay reporting on gender. To sustained applause Clare said “We need to protect rights for workers in the private and public sector. And we need to send a powerful message out to this Tory-led, Con-Dem government – that women should not and will not pay the price for the economic crisis caused by a banking and corporate elite dominated by men where only 2% of CEOs are women, and a mere 17% of Directorships are held by women.

The Con-Dems budget cuts will hit women hard. And it will hit women on low-incomes and the poor harder. The freezing of public sector pay, public sector job cuts, the freezing of child and family benefits will drive families deeper into poverty.

With 70% of public sectors workers being women it is essential that we engage, mobilise and organise women in our workplaces, in our trade unions, and in our communities to save public services and fight these cuts

A decade of progress on equality is at stake she proclaimed. “The battle for women’s equality has not been won. There are big new battles ahead to be fought. As a movement we must continue to lead these fights, developing new alliances and ensuring we don’t let this Government destroy all our achievements”.