Equal Pay Act 40 years on

Forty years on from the Dagenham Ford workers’ famous strikes for equal pay, which led to the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, it’s clear that problems persist.

Trade unions in general and the Northwest Probation and CAFCASS branch of UNISON in particular have always been at the fore of promoting equality but, forty years after the introduction of the equal Pay Act the Fawcett Society (the UK’s leading campaign for equality between women and men) declared last Wednesday “Equal Pay Day” as it says that generally speaking women will effectively work for nothing from the 7th November until January 1 as a result of the gender pay gap of 14.9%.

In a report back in 2010 the society called upon government to ensure gender pay audits for companies with over 250 employees, and extend flexible working to all and encourage shared parenting.

But forty years since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act research shows that for every £100 men take home, women only get £85 – a clear indicator of ingrained inequalities. With women bearing the brunt of the country’s Conservative – driven cutbacks because a huge number of women work in the public sector, which is the prime target of an all-out Condem assault.

Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society says it’s only going to get worse.

“The workforce is experiencing dramatic change, with around three-quarters of a million public-sector jobs predicted to go by 2017,” she says. “Plans to pull down public-sector pay to reflect local private-sector rates will also hit women harder than men, while the recently floated policy of enabling workers to ‘sell off’ progressive employment rights in exchange for company shares also threatens to further drive down women’s wages.

“At the same time, women’s unemployment stands at a record 24-year high and growing numbers of women have been forced into low paid, part-time and insecure employment – ‘underemployment.’ “The government is pinning its hopes on the hundreds of thousands of women who will make up the majority of those losing their jobs being able to find work in the private sector.”

Only last month women workers at Birmingham City Council won a Supreme Court case over equal pay and thousands of women will now be able to claim compensation for pay they never received simply because they are women.
Lawyers said the victory would have “huge implications” and with echoes of the Dagenham women’s fight in 1970 this landmark case could prove the key to unlocking the doors that lead to equality.

The gender split within the probation trusts across the country is around 60% women and 40% men with women well represented at all levels of management. And whilst this can be attributed to policies that promote equality which are administered by fair minded people it also goes without saying that the tireless efforts of Unison have and will continue to promote equality in the workplace and wider society.

Kev Allsop, Chair
Northwest Probation and Cafcass UNISON 20085
Public Services, delivered by the Public Sector, without Prejudice or Profit