Delegates warn equal pay and maternity rights are in danger
by Felicity Collier at Congress House
INEQUALITY between men and women will worsen if the government ploughs on with dismantling workers’ rights, trade unionists have warned.
Rights that were hard won by a generation of workers are now under attack, delegates at the TUC Women’s Conference in London said yesterday.
They warned that equal pay progression and maternity rights for women are in jeopardy.
Unions TSSA, RMT, the NUT and Unison pledged to resist the government’s continuing “anti-worker” policies, which affect women disproportionately.
TSSA called for equal pay to be at the forefront of the motion to protect workers’ rights.
NUT delegate Judy Ellerby said: “We are all aware that the government is clearly antiworker.
“They are looking at untangling our rights, the rights we have worked for over a generation.
“Society is going to become unequal. The difference between men and women will worsen.”
Up to half of the teaching union’s members are denied pay progression after taking maternity leave, simply because they are part-time workers.
Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities Sarah Champion pointed out that the Tories’ EU legislation does not mention the word “equality” at all.
She highlighted the plight of women in precarious employment such as those on zero hours contracts, who miss out on maternity rights and protection against unfair dismissal. Ms Champion cited research showing that 54,000 women have been forced to leave their jobs by a lack of maternity rights.
Successive austerity Budgets have consistently affected women the most, Ms Champion said, with 86 per cent of the Treasury’s savings coming from cuts to benefits that help women.
“Increasingly insecure employment terms mean women are unable to plan their lives,” she pointed out.
Unison’s Carol Saul warned against a “weakening of employment rights on the first day we are no longer part of the EU.”
Her union is calling for the introduction of a non-regression clause to ensure that Britain is legally bound to retain existing workers’ rights.
Ms Saul said: “We want our employment rights to continue to match those of the EU,” adding that a “progress clause” would prevent Britain from becoming an “offshore centre of social dumping, undermining other EU countries.”
RMT’s Cat Cray added her support to the motion but said that the downside of the free movement of labour is that it allows the exploitation of the most desperate people for the lowest pay, giving the union’s seafaring members as an example.