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2012 National Women's Conference
19 October 2011

Conference notes that the coalition government’s measures to reduce the deficit are steadily undermining the hard-won gains of women in the workplace and in society:

1)At least 65% of public sector workers are women – cuts in public sector jobs, wages and services will therefore impact on women more than men;

2)Women’s unemployment is now at its highest level in 20 years, and continues to grow;

3)Services used primarily by women, including those providing specialist support to Black, disabled and LGBT women, have become increasingly under attack during this government’s term of office, with grants being cut or withdrawn from women’s community and voluntary organisations;

4)Low income mothers, particularly lone parents, who have returned to the workforce are finding it impossible to balance childcare costs with paid work, whilst services they rely on, including Sure Start centres, are being cut;

5)Women continue to be unfairly selected for redundancy when pregnant, whilst levels of maternity/paternity pay remain too low for many women and their partners to take advantage of the statutory leave for new parents;

6)Disabled women tend to be concentrated in relatively low-skill, low waged jobs which are particularly vulnerable to the cuts;

7)Attacks on public sector pensions and changes to the state pension are attacks on women’s pensions;

8)Women, particularly Black women, are still under-represented in political life, on decision making bodies and at board levels in private companies across the UK, including those which provide public services.

Conference further notes that a leaked document from 10 Downing Street makes it clear that the government is worried that their claims to be “women and family friendly” have backfired, and that they intend to launch a “charm offensive” on women voters.

The document, which was widely reported in the press in September 2011, says that “We are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued as a government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately.” The document mentions public sector pay and pensions as an example, “particularly as contrasted with – mostly male – bankers, in the popular narrative”.

Conference therefore calls upon the national women’s committee to :

a)Work with the NEC to ensure that UNISON’s women members are aware of the disproportionate impact of the cuts on all women, and the additional impact on LGBT, Black and disabled women;

b)Work with regional women’s committees and UNISON Learning and Organising Services to ensure that women members have the necessary resources to campaign in their local community on these issues, including lobbying skills, use of local media and social networking;

c)Work with Labour Link and partner organisations to ensure that the reality of the impact of the coalition government’s policies are understood and that their family friendly claims are repudiated;

d)Continue to work with UNISON Welfare (“There for You”) to ensure that women members are aware of the advice and assistance available to them.