Women and the cuts

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2012 National Delegate Conference
24 February 2012

Conference condemns the continued attack on women and the price they are paying for the harsh austerity measures. Women’s unemployment stands at a 23 year high, with a staggering 1.09 million women unemployed. Cuts in public sector employment are having a disproportionate effect on women, and women in communities across the country are struggling to pay essential household costs. With unemployment set to raise further there is a genuine fear growing that this age of austerity will cause irretrievable damage, to the employment and future employment opportunities for women.

735,000 women work in the public sector, providing vital roles and as these services are attacked downsized or outsourced, women are forced out of work. The Fawcett Society has predicted that, “Job losses in the public sector, drastic reductions in spending on benefits and public services and the looming care gap that women will be expected to plug leaves women facing a triple jeopardy.”

Essentially women are being attacked from all sides. And as a union that includes more than one million women members, our members will inevitably be disproportionally affected.

Conference notes the inequality that these cuts are causing, and the lasting damage they may have. Women have fought hard to gain the rights they have, and positions they have strived hard to achieve. Yet they still earn less, have less and are less financially secure than their male counterparts, these cuts will only cause to make this situation worse.

In the Northern region the Public Service Alliance has been in existence for nearly 18 months. This alliance of trade unions, community groups and the voluntary sector; campaign at a local level against a wide range of issues. This year a large element of this campaigning has been in relation to the attacks on publics services, and they have played a pivotal role in highlighting the inequality these cuts are having. Our region is proud that lay women activists play a significant role in all of the alliances, providing leadership and direction on key issues.

Conference welcomes that some employers have been made to re-assess at where cuts to services take place so they do not affect women as harshly. This has been archived through branches playing an integral role in the consultation process, and through rigours’ scrutiny of Equality Impact needs assessments, these have become a key tool in challenging inequality.

Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1) highlight the effect the cuts are having on women members by developing a strategy aimed at branches and women members, that will raise awareness of the cumulative impact of these harsh austerity measures;

2) campaign to highlight the disproportionate impact of regressive government policies on our women members,

3) produce targeted organising materials to help get the message to our women members;

4) promote the continued use of equality impact needs assessment (EINA) as a tool for challenging inequality in cuts to services;

5) promote the formation of Public Services Alliances to help campaign and highlight issues affecting women members; and

6) promote lay women activists in leadership roles within UNISON.