Double jeopardy – the impact of local government cuts on women

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2019 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2019

Conference notes that the impact of austerity and cuts to local government funding is particularly hard on women – the workforce is predominantly female, many of whom who are low paid.

Conference also notes that there is a double jeopardy for these women. As well as bearing the brunt of cuts in pay, terms and conditions, they are often the primary carers of children and elderly parents or other relatives. Cuts to local services mean that more and more women are forced to bear more responsibility for meeting the care needs of their loved ones as vital services are stripped away, unfairly adding to their stress levels as they struggle to balance work and home commitments.

At the same time, demand for local services is growing as a consequence of the ageing society and increasingly chronic public health issues. A “more for less” culture in the workplace coupled with the higher demand for services struggling to cope with depleting finances is undoubtedly leading to a higher rate of work related health issues, including mental ill health and stress.

Women are working longer due to pension changes and face further workplace pressures in relation to their reproductive health, made worse by often unsympathetic and intolerant employers.

Conference notes further that cuts to services such as Sure Start centres, nurseries, care homes and day centres is leading to an increase in the caring responsibilities to already overworked women as they lose services that could support them.

Conference believes that unless central government recognises that austerity measures have not worked and increase funding to local government, there will continue to be a negative impact on the workforce, particularly women. This inevitably impacts on morale and motivation, recruitment and retention and generates a spiral effect increasing the pressure on women as their caring roles will increase.

Conference also notes the work to date by UNISON to raise awareness of and campaigning against the disproportionate impact of the cuts to local government and in particular the women workers. But we must continue pressing on with this issue and working together to fight the unfair cuts to local government funding.

Conference therefore calls upon the local government service group executive to work with the national women’s committee, relevant UNISON committees and departments, regional women’s committees and local government groups to:

1)Continue fighting against the cuts to local government funding highlighting in particular the double jeopardy for women as workers and service users and;

2) Continue to research into the health impact for women working in local government, in particular, work related stress, mental health issues and reproductive health matters as the basis for producing guidance about the range of reasonable adjustments and flexibility employers can provide to support these women to continue working.