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Speaking up for women in work

Published: 8 Oct 2015 11:14

Home nation’s trade unions gather to champion workplace equality.

The Women's Employment Minister today joined women trade union members meeting in Glasgow in speaking up for women's rights at work.

Annabelle Ewing, Minister for Youth and Women's Employment spoke to an audience of representatives from the STUC, TUC, Wales TUC and Irish Congress of Trade Unions from Northern and Southern Ireland.

She emphasised that while it was important to recognise the progress being made to ensure women are able to access work, there is still a great deal to be done to see them expect parity with male colleagues and contemporaries.

Ms Ewing said:

"Female employment in Scotland is at record levels, the gap between male and female employment is at its lowest ever and the gender pay gap is lower than the rest of the UK but there is more work to do.

"We live and work in a society where there are more women in work – but they are much more likely to be in lower paid work, often without the stability and assurance that their job is secure. They can shoulder a disproportionate amount of childcare or family responsibilities that means they are unable to take up promotions and other opportunities because they don't have alternative care arrangements or flexible working.

"What I have found interesting is that in recent years, it is the economic argument that has led the push for greater willingness to adapt to meet the needs of the workforce, rather than the moral argument for equality. The bottom line is that keeping employees means you are not losing the investment you have made in your training. A diverse workforce is likely to better represent your customer base. Letting prejudice – overt or otherwise – restrict your pool of potential employees by half makes no sense when employers tell us they are looking for skilled workers.

"I am sure a lot of good work will be done here today. We will consider how quality childcare and negotiated flexible working policies can improve women's employment opportunities. We will hear how a Living Wage needs to be just that, not a higher level of minimum wage that is not available to young workers. We will also hear how welfare and austerity policies are particularly affecting women – something I am disappointed will not be considered by the cross-administration Ministerial Working Group on Women and the Economy proposed by the UK Government."

Examples of successful initiatives were shared at the meeting in Glasgow, with delegations from the STUC, Wales TUC, the TUC, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions taking the opportunity to discuss tackling the Gender Pay Gap; childcare strategies; and devolution.

Ms Ewing added:

"Women now make up the majority of Trade Union membership so it is only right that today is an opportunity to discuss the Trade Union Bill.

"We have set out our clear and strong opposition to the proposals, which we regard as a totally unjustified attack on workers' rights. We will continue to oppose these plans in the strongest possible way, and we urge the UK Government to look again at these deeply flawed proposals."

Anne Dean, GMB, Chair of the STUC Women's Committee, said:

"The STUC is delighted to welcome the delegations from our sister Trade Union Committees to Glasgow for this annual meeting of the Trade Union Women's Council of the Isles. We can learn a great deal from each other. We are pleased too that the Minister has been able to join us, and we would reinforce our shared opposition to the proposals from the UK Government on restricting trade unions' role in society. Trade unions and our women trade union reps play a vital part in promoting good employment conditions and economic growth"