UNISON calls time on pay inequality

Sylvia Haughey
Sylvia Haughey

UNISON will take the lead in smashing the gender pay gap and calling time on the pay inequality that allows men to be paid more than women.

Conference backed a bold and wide-ranging political, industrial and organising campaign to combat gender pay inequality, recognising that disability, black women and ethnicity pay gaps also need to be tackled.

Our union will also call on the TUC to organise a national day of action for Women’s Pay Day 2020.

Speaking in support, Glasgow’s Sylvia Haughey, one of the Glasgow women who took strike action for equal pay, told delegates that it is not an easy decision for any worker.

“But we were resolute that the fight would go on for social justice and equal pay. It’s a fundamental right to be treated fairly and equally,” said Sylvia.

After a 12 year fight, and costly attempts by a Labour led Glasgow City Council to block the rights of the predominantly female workforce to pay equality, the Council finally, in Jan 2018 agreed to negotiate a financial settlement.

“By the June – in typical council style – they broke their agreement and were no longer willing to negotiate. To us low paid women, it appeared to be down to cost. They were going to offer what they could afford to give us, not what our equal pay values was worth,” slammed Sylvia.

That was when 8,000 women in catering, cleaning, childcare and home care services took strike action. “A truly historic day,” said Sylvia.

“Our two day strike has resonated with those fighting for equal pay, social justice and equality well beyond Scotland and we received solidarity messages from trade unions across Europe and other parts of the world.”

To applause, Sylvia told conference that Glasgow City Council negotiated a financial settlement last month which will deliver life changing amounts for some low paid members.

Sadly, added Sylvia, over 150 members died during the long fight and won’t see the benefits.

Mary McCusker
Mary McCusker

Also supporting, Mary McCusker from West of Scotland University Branch highlighted that smashing the gender pay gap is imperative to creating a more equal and just society for all.

She added that since the inception of the Equal Pay Act 49 years ago, many trade unionists have been battling to bridge the gap with all the means at their disposal.

Mary called for a focus on the one thing that can smash through the Gender Pay Gap and the gap that sees the FTSE 100 chief executives earning, on average, 133 times more than your ordinary UK worker – “and that is the direct empowerment of women through robust socialist policies that can be championed by UNISON.”

Mary said that real power and change comes from women and men having the means and capacity to organise within their workplaces. She added that one of the most positive outcomes of the historic Equal Pay Battle in Glasgow was the number of women who stepped forward to take positions in their unions and who acted as spokespeople for the campaign.

“They were encouraged to do so as a result of their direct involvement in the struggle for equal pay and a conscious policy by Glasgow UNISON to ensure working class women fighters had a central role to play.

“It was a perfect example of working people coming together to reclaim money for women that had been stolen in unequal pay deals.”

Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy, representing the National Disabled Members’ group supported the motion, but also welcomed the reference to pay gaps in other equality groups.

“It’s truly shocking that women workers in the UK are still – even in 2019 – being paid less than men.

“But for many of our women members the gender pay cap is just the start of it,” said Kathleen, adding that if you identify as a woman and are also a disabled worker, like herself, it is a double whammy.

TUC research shows that disabled workers are paid £3000 a year less than their non-disabled counterparts. “And if you are a woman, you are paid even less,” she added.

She called for disability monitoring alongside gender pay monitoring, that is compulsory and is backed up by robust enforcement.

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