Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Equal Pay in 2008?

Today’s Guardian flags up one of the major issues which will continue to confront UNISON in 2008. It’s good to read comment which is not simply advertising the services of the “no win no fee” lawyers.

The fundamental problem which faces employers and unions in local government is the lack of central funding – we need to step up our campaign on this issue.

At the moment we are more than a little hamstrung in campaigning on Equal Pay by the legal advice that we can’t discuss the issue in our Conferences and Regional Councils for fear that someone will say something that could be used in evidence against the Union. Also the sheer volume of litigation is clearly taking up the time and energy of our senior officials to such an extent that we aren’t taking the political initiative as we should.

Gordon Brown told the TUC in 2005 that “our aim is to end once and for all the gender pay gap in our country.” It is a laudable aim, and it requires further reaching social change than can be achieved by either litigation or collective bargaining – but it also requires money. We need to step up the pressure on the Government – and those who aspire to exert influence on behalf of our movement need to raise their game.

1 comment:

Kate Ahrens said...

I am more and more convinced that we need to run a political campaign to free trade unions from the shackles thrown up by the equal pay legislative framework. Until we can discuss our strategy in an open and democratic manner without fear of no-win, no-fee lawyers suing the union for everything its got, we are hamstrung and prevented from adequately representing our members.

Union stewards need the same legal protection from suits as Health and Safety reps do - so that we can choose where and when to act based on our own democratically agreed agenda - not be forced into rejecting potentially good deals or accepting blatantly rubbish deals because of the risk of legal action.

Frankly, I am astonished that the union bureaucracy isn't already pushing this idea because without it the risks to the union's very existence seems to me to be in doubt, but when I flagged it up in discussions after the last UNISON NEC, it seemed to be the first time anyone had even suggested that we should try to change the legal framework under which we're operating rather than just spending all our time stopping lay activists being able to talk about it.