Cuts and Equalities

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2012 Local Government Service Group Conference
15 February 2012
Carried as Amended

Conference deplores the continuing savage spending cuts taking place across local government. With a female workforce of over 75%, cuts to local government jobs, pay and conditions have a detrimental effect on women in particular and are adversely impacting on other protected groups. Spending cuts are pushing women out of the local government workforce, driving down their income and eroding decades of steady progress on equality. Black and disabled workers tend to be concentrated in relatively low waged jobs in local government and so are also particularly vulnerable to cuts.

Conference notes that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) played a key role in implementing the old equality duties. For England there has been a significant watering down of the old duties and revised Government Equalities Office guidance states that the general equality duty does not impose a legal requirement to conduct EIAs. This has led some employers to think that they can now avoid EIAs in the future. Conference does not think this is the case. Although the specific obligation to impact assess no longer exists, under the General Equality Duty an authority has a legal duty to show it has paid due regard to equality issues.

Conference believes that 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. By getting it right first time authorities stand to save money and time – particularly if they face legal challenges for getting it wrong. The EIA methodology also ensures decisions are clear and evidence based and consistent with transparent decision making and good governance. The NJC Green Book also recommends carrying out EIAs on proposals which impact on employment and pay and conditions.

UNISON’s equality duties protocol is for use if an authority fails to carry out an EIA. However conference recognises that litigation is no substitute for negotiation and that it is vital that branches negotiate with employers on EIAs to mitigate the effect of an adverse proposal, spot a faulty analysis or potential discrimination or stall the process to enable the branch to mobilise an effective campaign of opposition.

During the last round of cuts negotiation and intervention by UNISON using the outcomes of EIAs staved off their worst effects and mitigated losses faced by members. But this is an ongoing process. In the next and subsequent budget setting rounds councils will again be looking to make further savings.

It is crucial that negotiators prepare for the next round of cuts and press employers to review the impact of cuts already introduced. Final proposals on pay, grading or terms and conditions also require sign off at regional and service group level. Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to continue to provide advice, guidance and training to lay and paid officials to ensure that branches and regions:

1)Are aware of the changes to EIAs introduced under the new specific duties;

2)Are equipped with the arguments to press employers to carry out EIAs as the best way for showing due regard;

3)Can identify robust EIAs which have a sound methodology, rigorous data collection, proper analysis of the impact and an action plan to address the results;

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

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

6)Press for the impact of cuts to be reviewed in line with EHRC advice no later than one year from implementation to recheck the findings;

7)Work with the Self Organised groups to gather information on the impact and extent of cuts to jobs pay and conditions in local government in order to publicise and monitor the impact cuts are having on protected groups.