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How will you #PressforProgress? #IWD2018

8 March 2018

The TUC's Women's conference passed the NUJ's motions on ending the gender-pay gap and backing the Six Weeks Support Campaign to have the law changed so self-employed women are treated equally in terms of statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance.

March 8 is International Women's Day (IWD18) and, with the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report telling us that gender parity is more than 200 years away, there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and take part in the IWD's #PressforProgress.

"With global activism for women's equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity," says a campaign spokesperson.

Employers with more than 250 workers have to publish information on the differences between men and women's pay and bonuses by April 4.

tuc women's conference
Cath Saunt

NUJ delegate Cath Saunt said: "It's a hundred years since women first got the right to vote and yet we are still fighting for pay parity. The government's data shows that, of the companies that have published their gender pay figures so far, 74 per cent pay men more than women.  The BBC's record, bravely highlighted by former China bureau chief, Carrie Gracie, has a gender pay gap of 9.3 per cent."

She called for greater transparency so that women were able to compare they pay with their male colleagues. Delegates heard from a NASUWT delegate who said that while women made up three-quarters of the teaching profession, it was the men's pay which was higher. "It is blatant discrimination," she said.

The UCU's delegate said: "I am not sure that just putting companies with gender pay gaps on the naughty step will see the desired progress needed. There needs to be enforcement with sanctions if employers do nothing to end the gap."

Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, paid tribute to the NUJ, Carrie Gracie and members at the BBC who are fighting for equal pay. "When Carrie asked why she was being paid less than men doing less demanding jobs she was told – and this as an exceptionally and experienced fifty-something journalist - that she was still being developed. Sisters - how dare they?"

The delegates' pleas were heeded by Dawn Butler, shadow equalities minister, who told conference:

"We will take action where this government has failed to do so and tackle the gender pay gap here in the UK. Under Labour’s new plans, we will require all large private and public companies with over 250 employees to prove their gender equality practices or face further auditing and fines. Employers that meet the criteria will obtain government certification and will be considered for government procurement contracts."

The motion passed unanimously by the Women's Conference called on the TUC to press the government to require companies with more than 50 employees to publish gender-gap information and to require salary and tax publication, similar to the open policy operating in Norway.

The NUJ is representing almost 150 women in their claims for unequal pay at the BBC and the union recently won a five-figure compensation sum from Newsquest for a member to fix the shortfall to her salary and pension contributions over several years. The union has won other claims, but members have requested confidentiality. Elsewhere chapels are running equal pay surveys, work continues at the FT and RTÉ and positive meetings were held at Reuters and CNN.

Research by the TUC has found that the average woman has to wait more than two months of the calendar year before she starts to get paid, compared to the average man. Women effectively work for free for 67 days of the year compared to men because of the gender pay gap

So far, the media companies appear to be leaving it right to the 4 April deadline to publish their pay gender data, but news agency PA’s figures show its workforce consists of 63.9 per cent men and 36.1 per cent women. There is a small gender pay gap, but men are getting much higher bonuses and two-thirds of the best-paid jobs are filled by men.

Trinity Mirror's figures revealed an overall 18 per cent difference between the mean hourly pay of men and women and a more than an 11 per cent gap between those bonuses paid to men and their female colleagues at MGN Ltd.

tuc women's conference
Magda Ibrahim

Magda Ibrahim proposed the NUJ's motion on the inequality in maternity pay for self-employed mothers.  "Anxiety, stress, inability to sleep from worry, depression," she said. "These are just some of the words used by self-employed mums to describe the side effects they experience after having a new baby.

And that’s not down to the struggles of coping with the demands of a new-born. These are the side effects from being forced back to work almost immediately after giving birth because of the inequality in maternity pay between self-employed and employed mums."

Statutory maternity pay, for employed workers, allows mothers to claim 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, followed by £140.98 a week for another 33 weeks. However, maternity allowance – which is for the self-employed – allows for a maximum £140.98 a week from day one.

Conference passed the motion unanimously and called on the TUC to support the Six Weeks Support campaign and lobby government to address discrepancies in maternity pay between employed and self-employed women.

Sexual harassment was a hot topic at conference. Delegates called on the TUC's Women's Committee to build on the TUC's Protection from sexual harassment guidance and campaign for all employers to have policies prohibiting sexual harassment and assault. 

Frances O'Grady said:

"Recently, we had the scandal of that Presidents Club dinner. Young women at the beck and call of drunken, loutish, groping rich business men. All in the name of charity. And after being forced to sign so-called non-disclosure agreements. We already know that sexual harassment is rife. The TUC’s landmark study is now used as the standard reference point. But at its heart this is about inequality of power."

A motion, moved by Equity and the Musicians' Union, described the high levels of sexual harassment in the entertainment industries and made reference to the Federation of Entertainment Unions' 2013 survey which revealed the creative industry to be a "hotspot" for bullying.

The NUJ is working with colleagues in the FEU to update its guidance and advice to reps in the light of the recent sexual harassment scandals. The union is making a submission to the Women and Equalities select committee inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace and will call on government to make changes to the Equalities Act 2010 and to encourage companies to work with the unions to put proper reporting policies in place.

Emily Cunningham, the NUJ rep for SNP Westminster staff, was a member of the cross-party team which looked at sexual harassment at Westminster; the group identified the need for a cultural change underpinned by codes of conduct and sanctions against perpetrators. NUJ statement

Another conference motion said that the union movement must also look at itself and more should be done to encourage women into leadership roles at all levels of union organisations.

NUJ delegate Ann Halpin, together with USDAW, raised the question of women, a hundred of whom are two weeks into a hunger strike, at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, calling on the TUC's Women’s committee to send a message of solidarity. She said:

"The Home Office refusal to acknowledge or act to redress concerns about inadequate
provision of medical care or access to legal justice; or that many of the women are victims
of trafficking and sexual abuse, living with deep trauma that is exacerbated by immigration
detention – which is contrary to government undertaking."

The International Federation of Journalists used IWD18 to highlight its campaign to tackle gender-based violence and harassment at work. Its survey found that in only about a quarter (27.7 per cent) of countries were there collective agreements for journalists covering gender-based violence. However, two-thirds of unions now have launched relevant campaigns and are working to target gender-based violence. One respondent to the survey said that, to avoid sexist abuse in the newsroom, “management tells me to put headphones on and watch a movie”.

Tags: , international women's day, IWD18, #PressforProgress, TUC, TUC Women's conference, gender pay, gender pay gap, trinity mirror, press association, equality, maternity benefit, maternity pay, sexual harassment, FEU, ifj, gender-based violence, Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre