Why Britain’s women won’t “calm down”

19th October, 2014 2:02 pm

From November 4th until the end of 2014, women across the country will effectively be working for free. The gender pay gap means that women are paid on average 15% less than their male counterparts; we have to work an extra 60 days annually to earn the same amount as a man doing the same job. For black and minority ethnic women, the pay gap is 20%. Women in Britain need a pay rise.

It was heartening to see so many women on the TUC march yesterday. But this no doubt reveals a darker truth: it is women who are paying the price for this Conservative government.

Under the Tories, the gender pay gap has widened and unemployment among women reached its highest level in 25 years. The Fawcett Society has found that, between 2010 and 2013, almost three times more women than men had become unemployed. Around 40% of working women are employed in the public sector, which is being devastated by government cuts at the expense of thousands of jobs.

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Where women are in work, they are far more likely to be doing part-time jobs, where the pay gap not only increases but jobs are often characterised by low pay and poor promotion prospects. This wage discrepancy has a lasting impact, affecting women’s pensions and leading to a greater proportion of women living in poverty in old age. Women in Britain cannot afford another five years of the Tories.

We need a Labour government with radical plans for tackling gender pay inequality. Labour fought for equal pay for equal work and introduced the minimum wage. From the women at the Ford factory in Dagenham to the 2010 Equality Act, we’ve been chipping away at the glass ceiling. In fact, we’ve been chipping away at it even for the forty four years since the Equal Pay Act was passed. It’s time to end the gender pay gap once and for all.

While Labour pushed for measures requiring employers to undertake equal pay audits, this government refused to implement them, weakening efforts to ensure equal pay in the private sector. While Labour fought against workplace inequality, this government imposed £1,200 fees on women who sought to achieve equal pay and raise gender discrimination cases through workplace tribunals.

A Labour government in 2015 will work to tackle the pay gap by implementing pay transparency rules for large employers and increasing the minimum wage for the lowest paid. Let’s also look to remove unfair employment tribunal fees and push for a living wage for all. The only way we will have a flourishing economy is by having an economy in which women’s work is valued for what it is.

When the Conservatives are holding women back, implementing policies that widen the gender pay gap, and then charging women £1,200 for the privilege of requesting equal treatment through workplace tribunals, there has never been a more important time to tell David Cameron that we won’t calm down. We will continue battling, as Labour, as women, to elect a Labour government and smash the glass ceiling together, and not stop until that most fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work is made true.

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