Can we resolve the Gender Pay Gap (and the race, disability and LGBT+ Pay Gaps)?
The UCU website notes that ‘although equal pay legislation has been in place for over 40 years, the gender pay gap in Britain remains the highest in the EU at over 18%. In HE for all academics the gender pay gap is 12%.
It is worth noting that it is nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act 1970 and that in many Universities, the gender pay gap is more like 20%.
The most recent data (2016/17) suggests this is still the case. So we have a big problem to challenge. Our current strong collective action gives our members the chance to bridge this huge gap.
3 years ago in 2016, a number of UCU regional briefings were held on this topic by union officials to branch officers and reps. Now in 2019/20 we are nowhere further forward. The suggestion made by the officials was that equality reps and branch negotiators meet with HR departments, look at data and come up with an action plan. How many have achieved this? How many have actually resolved the gender pay gap (and other pay gaps such as BAME, disability and LGBT+)? Very few if any.
We cannot detach this area of discrimination from the context and influences around us. We are talking about the movements against sexual harassment and sexual assault such as #MeToo and #TimesUp on the streets. Women today are just not prepared to wait for years to achieve equality. So long detailed action plans are just not working. We need much faster action to resolve the gender pay gap (and other pay gaps).
An obvious solution is to have a clear career progression scheme. Let’s take, for example, a Lecturer on a grade which runs from £30,942 pa to £40,322 pa with discretionary points to £44,045 pa. Rather than have to submit to a time consuming and discriminatory application process to be promoted to Senior Lecturer why not progress automatically through from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer. Indeed we need to extend normal progression to the higher scales for all academic, academic-related and research staff. For the (few) women at the higher ends of the salary scale they also need parity in regards to bonus payments etc. however our main focus is having a fair and equitable career scheme and this dispute is our opportunity to get this sorted now rather than sit through slow and laborious meetings with HR departments
We must link the fight for gender pay with the fight against casualization. Inevitably once data is acquired on those on precarious contracts we will see that it is invariably women, BAME disabled and LGBT+ staff who are on these contracts in the majority. Our dispute is about equality as well as pensions, pay, workload and casualization.
Only a clearly defined career progression scheme will resolve the gender pay gap and other pay gaps. The pay gap has a lasting effect on current pay but also on past pay and future pension. Therefore clearly defined career progression should also be applied retrospectively as women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ staff have been held back for far too long.
Dr Sue Abbott
NEC and Chair of Equality Committee (pc)