Using Equality to Fight Local Government Cuts

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
10 June 2011

Conference deplores the swingeing spending cuts taking place across local government. With a female workforce of over 75%, cuts to local government jobs and terms and conditions have a detrimental effect on women in particular and may adversely impact on other protected groups.

The disproportionate impact of cuts on women is well documented:

1)The changes to benefit and taxation from the 2010 budget will impact adversely on women’s earnings, whilst proposed changes to both the state and local government pension schemes will force even more women into poverty in retirement;

2)One in five women act as unpaid carers to adult family members, and the support services they rely on are being targeted for cuts, at a time when poverty and unemployment is likely to increase reliance on services providing advice and support for those experiencing drug and alcohol dependency and domestic abuse ;

3)Black women and disabled women in particular, will suffer the multiple disadvantage of cuts to specialist services and access to employment in the public sector where they have traditionally received fairer treatment;

4)Cuts in children’s services, schools and childcare will impact on women who still carry the burden of childcare responsibilities.

5)Social enterprise and the Tory “Big Society” ideal cannot hope to replace properly resourced public services, whilst past evidence has shown that where services are contracted out, women have suffered disproportionately as their pay and conditions have been cut.

6) Changes in work patterns and work places, through restructures has increased the cost of childcare and petrol costs

Conference believes that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) provide the best way for councils to demonstrate that they are complying with equality law. Carrying out and acting on robust EIAs will help authorities to avoid making poor and unfair decisions that could discriminate against protected groups and increase inequality.

Conference therefore welcomes the Local Government Service Group’s negotiating guidance and training on using EIAs to fight cuts. Conference also welcomes the advice issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on using the equality duties to make fair financial decisions.

It is now crucial that negotiators prepare for the next round of cuts and press employers to review the impact of cuts already introduced. Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

a)Ensure that branches and regions are aware of the changes to EIAs introduced under the new specific duties and are equipped to use the equality impact assessment process to fight cuts to jobs and services;

b)Use UNISON’s equality duties protocol if there are no processes in place to show equality issues have been taken into account

c)Use the campaigning potential of the EIA process to recruit and involve members and build up service user alliances.

d)Campaign to raise awareness of the impact of the cuts on women’s lives, both as service users and service providers, and challenge the misconception that local government workers “have it easy.”