Low Pay and Women in UNISON

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2018 National Delegate Conference
22 February 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference celebrates the fact that the hard work of our low paid women members has been central to all the many successes of our union.

UNISON’s principles of proportionality and fair representation means that some seats on our elected bodies, including the National Executive Council, are reserved for women low-paid members, so that the make-up fairly represents the wider union.

We have a variety of places where low paid seats exist, and low pay is included in branch delegations to National Delegate Conference.

The definition of “low paid” reflects the median gross weekly earnings for all jobs (full time or part time) and is revised each year.

The median gross weekly earnings figure for 2017/18 has been calculated in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings at £448.60, a 2.3% increase on last year.

This means the threshold for election to reserved (low pay) seats in the union is now £9.94 an hour. This is reviewed each year in October.

£9.94 per hour x 37 hour week x 52 weeks equals a salary of up to £19,124.56

The national living wage (set by government) is currently £7.50 per hour if you are over 25 years of age.

The living wage (set by the Living Wage Foundation) is currently £8.45 per hour in the UK, (£9.75 in London).

Despite many years of attempting to fill all low paid seats in UNISON’s democratic structures, many vacancies exist. Our membership system does not record our members hourly pay rates, and the application for membership asks no specific questions on whether the person is low paid within our definition (paid less that £9.94 per hour).

It is concerning that not all organising initiatives, whether led nationally, regionally or at branch level, explicitly and proactively seek to organise low paid women.

Questions remain on what more can be done to encourage our low paid women members at branch; region and national level.

For some of our members it may be that they don’t know about reserved/low paid seats; it may be that there is an absence of training; or isolation; or awareness of rights to time off work for trade union duties.

Within UNISON there may still be a lack of support and encouragement and positive recognition of the importance of hearing the voices and views of our low paid women members.

Additionally low paid women may not be aware that any expenses could be paid to them in advance so that they are never out of pocket.

Conference affirms its commitment to supporting and encouraging our low paid women members to take their rightful place in UNISON’s democratic structures. Our union will not be able to continue to be the premier public service union unless it continues to demonstrate that its relevant to low paid women in the constantly evolving workforce. Low pay will only be tackled by strong, well organised unions.

Conference commends work in Eastern region which has prioritised low paid women in its organising strategy for 2018 and is working with branches to implement a range of initiatives.

Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1)Investigate what barriers to engagement exist for our low paid women members;

2)Produce guidance on the role of National Executive Council and Service Group Executive members, including the frequency and location of meetings, so women are clear about why they should seek to be elected to senior roles in their union and how they will be supported;

3)Consider whether activist education can be delivered in alternative ways to encouraged more low paid women to access it;

4)Report back to conference in 2019 on findings and recommendations for positive action.