A sustainable future for Water, Environment and Transport workers � we need more women engineers

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2021 Virtual Special Water, Enviroment & Transport Conference
8 April 2021

Conference is concerned that although some employers in the Water, Environment and Transport sector have worked hard to reduce their gender pay gap – notably Thames Water – reports for 2019 (reporting was suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic) revealed others have mean average gaps which are significantly higher than the industry�s average of 11.7% and higher even than the UK average � Affinity Water at 22.5%, Bristol Water at 20.2% and South East Water at 23%.

Conference notes that the gender pay gap has increased during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Much of this is due to the fact that in the UK, women still do the majority of caring, whether paid or unpaid. Women who work and have children and/or other caring responsibilities have been hit hardest having to balance doing their job with childcare. A report from the TUC in January 2021 highlighted how working mothers have picked up the lion�s share of caring responsibilities and that one in six working mothers � mainly those on the lowest pay � have had to reduce their hours at work as a direct result of school and childcare closures. Some have been forced out of work altogether.

Given that pre-Covid many WET employers reported larger than average gender pay gaps, pay inequity in these employers is now likely to be substantial. Women tend to work in customer facing and support roles rather than engineering, which is heavily dominated by men and higher paid.

Conference believes that gender barriers need to be addressed and that as a predominantly female trade union UNISON should lead the way in calling for action from the industry. We believe we need more visible female role models and we need louder, clearer leadership and targets. We also need a range of internal policies and programmes � for example, on flexible working and changes to recruitment practice. We need to see the industry taking positive steps to encourage women to apply for traditionally male roles and to support their career development.

Conference congratulates the National Women�s Committee on the #bridgethegap campaign, trailblazer project and gender pay gap bargaining tools launched in April 2019. Conference notes that post-pandemic, closing the gender pay gap will be even more important to halt the reverse in gender equality brought about during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Conference calls on the Water, Environment and Transport Service Group Executive to:

1. Ensure that closing the gender pay gap is included as a priority in bargaining with WET employers;

2. Work with the WET service group executive to develop visible female role models, encourage flexible working, change recruitment practices to attract women to work in traditionally male roles such as engineering;

3. Work with the National Women�s Committee to encourage WET branches to participate in UNISON’s national gender pay gap trailblazer project.