Despite years of progress on the gender pay gap, the difference in pay between women and men is still wide — it now stands at more than 10 per cent — and it threatens to become ever wider under nearly ten years of Tory austerity.
Unite delegate Jasmine Suraya spoke in support of motion 40 at the TUC Congress today (September 13), which outlines how women have been hit hardest by government policy and other trends in the economy.
Suraya noted that the growth in insecure work; the spiraling of self-employment; the spread of casualisation; and relentless austerity have all hit women the hardest.
“The glass ceiling has been recently reinforced by a concrete floor and a barbed wire fence,” Suraya said. “That’s what has widened the gender pay gap.”
She highlighted that there are more women than men in the workforce now, and they are concentrated in the lowest paid, most exploitative sectors, including what she said Unite called the five ‘Cs’ – cleaning, clerical, cashiering, care and catering.
“I don’t care whether women work at the BBC, or like myself in health, or anywhere elsewhere for that matter,” Suraya affirmed. “Congress, no woman, no matter where she sits on the income scale should experience outright discrimination.”
She pointed to the recent case of the BBC where it was found that only a third of the top 96 earners were women, and the top seven earners were all men.
“The media stories about the BBC have highlighted, no matter where you work or who you are, pay disparity between men and women still exits,” she said.
Affirming that “enough is enough”, Suraya made the case for concrete steps the government can take now to help close the gender pay gap.
These steps include action to help build better public services, universal childcare, stronger trade unions, and support for women to help them enforce their rights.
But, she said, this will only happen if decisive action is taken.
“This demands political will,” she said.
Suraya highlighted too that such actions would not only benefit women — they benefit men as well.
“As a movement, our instinct is to remain resilient, to fight and hold those in power to account,” she said.
“That’s why we need a commitment to concrete actions – that can reverse the attacks on women’s equality,” Suraya argued. “Then we are on the path to finally achieving gender equality.
“Women demand and deserve equal pay now. Today. 2017.
Urging Congress to support the motion, Suraya said, “My mother wished to see in her lifetime that this would be achieved. We can make it happen.”
The motion was passed.