Equal Pay

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2024 National Women's Conference
1 January 2024

Equal pay is nothing new, in 1910 Mary Macarthur led the women chain makers of Cradley Heath to victory in their fight for a living wage by leading a strike to force the employers to implement the rise.

In 1968 a group of women workers followed suit at the Ford factory in Dagenham which led to the Equal Pay Act in 1970. From Agenda for Change to the green book Job Evaluation Scheme and much later Equal Pay Law being covered by the Equality Act of 2010, equal pay for women members continues to be an issue today.

Thiis conference further notes the achievement of Claudia Goldin in winning the 2023 Nobel prize for economics for her work on gender pay inequality. Her work “provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation through the centuries” and the main causes for the remaining gender pay gap. Her work also noted that progress in closing the gender pay is halting.

It has been 54 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force but the fact, we need to raise the issue again in the 21st Century is depressing and illegal for it to be happening.

The last available data for the gender pay gap in the UK shows the median figure for the gender pay gap to be at 9.4% close to the level seen in 2017/18. The gender pay gap is wider in the public sector around 15%. Construction, finance and education have the widest gender pay gaps.

This lack of movement is despite the requirement of organisations with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap data. The United Kingdom sits behind France, Belgium and Sweden where employers are forced by legislation to address gender pay gaps directly.

It is also important to understand the cumulative impact on Black, disabled, and LGBT+ women and for those that have a number of protected characteristics. It is vitally important that the added impact of these layers of inequality is analysed, understood and forms part of ways of addressing pay gaps.

Whilst we can celebrate the achievements for women on equal pay that have occurred since the 1970’s, as a union with the largest number of women members this issue needs to remain a priority for UNISON.

This Conference further recognises:

That despite the introduction of equality proofed pay systems, many of our largest employers are now subject to potential legal action around equal pay.

We call upon the National Women’s Committee to:

a) Work with the NEC and other bodies of the union to continue to raise awareness and support women members facing inequality through pay in the workplace;

b) Work with the NEC and other bodies of the union to continue to keep equal pay at the top of UNISON’s priorities; and,

c) Work with LAOS to identify and deliver appropriate training for activists.

d) Campaign for employer action plans to force employers to reduce gender pay gaps.

e). Look to produce a tool-kit for branches on gender pay gaps and equal pay.

f) Explore how to better identify those impacted by multiple pay gaps and how to include intersectionality in all our work on this issue