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

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Judge sides with government - women’s rights “unarguable or academic”

Mr Justice Ouseley, High Court Judge has denied the Fawcett Society, the gender equality campaign group the right to challenge the legality of the Government’s Emergency Budget.

The Society, backed by UNISON had applied for a decision to seek a declaration that the Government had acted unlawfully in creating the Budget “without paying due regard to gender equality laws”.

The society acted after it appeared that the Treasury did not carry out an equalities impact assessment of its budget in accordance with the Equality Act of 2006, which requires public authorities to give "due regard" to the impact of their decisions upon women.

His judgement comes despite that fact that the government has conceded that it forgot its legal duty to consider whether cuts would disproportionately affect certain groups – the Treasury was unable to provide any evidence that an equalities impact assessment had taken place. Theresa May, the home secretary, had written to Osborne a fortnight before his emergency budget in June to warn that it ran a "real risk" of falling foul of the legislation.

But Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed the Society’s arguments on the basis that the application was “inarguable or academic”. Mr Ouseley is a senior judge, and the law is the law, but while he was pontificating in court, the TUC was being forced to reach a different conclusion. http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-18888-f0.cfm  The TUC research reinforces analysis released previously www.yvettecooper.com/women-bear-brunt-of-budget-cuts

For too many liberal commentators this analysis leads to discussions where the au-pair will have to be laid off, or whether little Tamsin will be able to have all those extra curricular activities. Poor them. There is another aspect. From the gender pay gap, to the benefit changes, the evidence is overwhelming that the cuts being put made by the Con-dem government that target women will lead to their impoverishment and further inequality.

The budget overwhelmingly takes from women - eighty per cent of the rises in tax alone comes from women’s pockets. Women’s poverty leads directly to further child poverty, and condemns another generation to wasted life chances.

There is further dimension to these statistics. In this dimension the war on women is part of a class war on the working class people of this country. While the bankers have gone back to business as usual someone has to pay.

Class inequality is intrinsic to capitalism and across its dimensions, power, access, influence and resources the working class remains marginal and hence easy to use as the scapegoat. Living on the breadline, earning less than the men they work with or scraping by on inadequate benefits, working class women are on the front line of the latest battlefront.

While students currently take to the streets in the battle against tuition fees, the battle to come will need the women of the working class involved and at the forefront. As a union that organises working women, we have to ensure that they have the confidence and the knowledge to take on that fight.