The Gender Agenda

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
20 February 2013

Conference commends the proposal to set a “gender agenda” in local government pay negotiations.

The government’s austerity measures and the pay freeze in local government have impacted disproportionally on women, not least because three quarters of workers in local government are women and more than half of these women work part-time, in low paid jobs – significantly below the level of the current living wage.

Cuts in working tax credits and the high cost of childcare have also contributed to a significant fall in living standards, whilst the gender pay gap in the public sector still stands at over 9% for full time workers.

Women workers in skilled jobs are still undervalued, particularly in the caring sector – most recently in the government’s proposal that nursery workers be expected to care for three under-two year olds, which demonstrate a total misunderstanding of the levels of skill required to care for and keep young children safe.

Authorities are reorganising services and trying to do more for less, however in many cases they are failing to revise job descriptions or to re-evaluate jobs, and our members are therefore at risk of being paid inappropriately. Meanwhile the spectre of regional pay has not gone away, and if introduced would without doubt force down women’s wages even further.

Conference agrees that it is essential to involve more women in UNISON’s recruitment and organising campaigns, and that this must begin at branch level. Recent research in support of UNISON’s latest recruitment campaign has shown that many workers do not join unions because they believe the cost to be too high, and because they have never been asked. Involving more women at branch level would dispel the myths around cost, and would provide that first point of contact.

Conference calls upon the service group executive to:

1)Continue to pursue the gender agenda in local government pay negotiations;

2)Ensure that recruitment, organising and pay information has a women’s focus;

3)Use all channels available to continue to resist the introduction of regional pay, whilst pushing for a living wage as the minimum in pay negotiations;

4)Update information and guidance to branches on the use of equal pay audits, particularly at a time of reorganisation, as a means to ensure that women’s work is properly valued and rewarded.