Women and Austerity

Back to all Motions

2014 National Delegate Conference
11 February 2014
Carried as Amended

All across the UK women have seen their standard of living fall since this government came to power. Their jobs and pay cut and the services they rely on severely affected by the Coalition government’s austerity measures. It is now more important than ever that UNISON as an organisation of women workers stands up for their rights and challenges these increasing inequalities.

Women are bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity programme through reduced pay, privatisation, job losses and cutbacks in the services they run and use. In the public sector twice as many women as men have lost jobs in local government since 2010. Over a million public sector jobs are set to go by 2018, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. Women make up nearly two-thirds of the public sector workforce and will therefore be disproportionately hit by job losses.

This government’s policies have had a disproportionately detrimental impact on women in all aspects of their lives.

Employers are resorting to measures which create a more flexible labour market but diminish job security and reduce terms and conditions – including the increased use of zero hours contracts, cuts to pay, maternity, holiday and sickness provisions – which impact disproportionately on women and store up future problems in terms of pensions benefits and poverty in old age.

Meanwhile, the national minimum wage fails to keep pace with the cost of living, leaving the mainly women recipients struggling with increasing debt and poverty. Raising the minimum wage would stimulate the economy through increased spending and save taxpayers money by cutting benefits, whilst closing the gender pay gap.

And it’s not just pay and jobs that are affected. Other aspects of Government policy have been detrimental to women:

1)Less maternity pay: from April 2014, statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance will be cut in real terms over the next three years. The “Health in Pregnancy” grant and the baby element of tax credits have also been abolished;

2)Cuts to services supporting victims of domestic violence: Local authority funding to services for domestic and sexual violence was cut by nearly a third in 2012. On a typical day, 230 women are turned away by Women’s Aid refuges due to lack of space or funding cuts;

3)Cuts to the NHS and social care – a service in which women work and on which they are more likely to rely and who take the greater responsibility for children’s health and elder care.

The government’s economic policy has failed women and it is vital that this message is heard loud and clear by women workers across the country.

Conference calls for the National Executive Council to work with the National Women’s Committee to:

a)Promote the importance of trade union membership to women;

b)Highlight the historic role of women in achieving change through trades union activity;

c)Challenge inequalities and the detrimental impact of government economic policy;

d)Highlight the multiple impact on women of strands of government policy through welfare changes, lack of support for childcare and changes to pension entitlement;

e)Provide appropriate training and education materials to branches and regions on these issues.