Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Equality, cuts and contradictions

I’ve blogged before to welcome the admirable legal challenge from the Fawcett Society to the ConDem Emergency Budget for breaching the Gender Equality Duty through a complete failure to assess (never mind attempt to redress) the disproportionate impact of deficit reduction measures on women when compared with men.

Having this evening represented Lambeth’s Joint Trade Unions at a meeting of Lambeth’s Equality Panel, reviewing the equality impact assessments of controversial proposals for spending reductions I am more certain than ever that UNISON activists need to get to grips with the application of the statutory equality duties in a time of cuts.

These laws are no more a panacea than are any other laws, but just as trade unionists willing to put in the graft can make use of the redundancy consultation requirements of Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act in the noble cause of damage limitation, so we can and must use the statutory equality duties wherever they apply.

There is a contradiction between seeking to implement public spending cuts and seeking to promote equality of opportunity - yet public bodies aiming to do the former retain a statutory duty to do the latter.

Our job is to get inside that contradiction and use it to defend jobs and services – and hasten the political crisis which the ConDem Government deserves.

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