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2009 National Women's Conference
21 October 2008

Conference welcomes the new measures announced in the Government’s Equality Bill aimed at tackling inequality in the workplace, but believes that the proposals do not go far enough.

In its response to the consultation on the bill, UNISON had raised concerns that whilst the duties may be extended across all strands, the actual requirements within the duties may be watered down. We already have evidence of how effective the gender duty can be in supporting our women members in the workplace and in wider society, and it is essential that any replacement duty across all equality strands is at least as good as the existing duties, and that it is extended to the private and voluntary sector.

Two thirds of all workers in the public sector are women and it is through their efforts, with the support of UNISON, that we have made significant advances in equality, above and beyond those experienced by women in the private sector.

Conference notes that the Government intends that transparency on equality in the private and voluntary sectors will be encouraged via public sector procurement. The White Paper identifies that public procurement is worth £160 billion a year and that 30 per cent of the private sector supply goods or services to the public sector. Where public money is being spent, it is right and proper that the companies benefiting from that money are, at the very least, required to meet the same high standards in equality as the public sector.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Women’s Committee, working with the NEC and Labour Link, to continue to lobby the government for:

1)Enhanced public sector duties covering all strands.

2)The extension of equality obligations to the private and voluntary sectors.

3)Comprehensive reform of equality legislation.

4)Specified equality protections in procurement.

5)The introduction of statutory equality representatives.

Conference further calls upon the National Women’s Committee to work with the wider union to ensure that comprehensive guidance and training continues to be available as the details of the Bill become known, to ensure that members are aware of the implications and are able to play their part in making effective use of the new legislation.