Today I am sending my solidarity and thanks to my colleagues in UCU and NUT who will be on the pickets in London fighting the latest round of the pensions battle. Pension changes introduced next month will have the hardest hit on part time (predominantly female) staff across the public sector, adding increased contributions to a wage freeze: a big real money wage cut against the rate of inflation. The changes also move to a career average scheme, penalising workers (again mainly women) who provide unpaid social labour by scaling down their working hours to care for children, the elderly and the sick in the home. They also form part of a broader attack on the unionised public sector which seeks to undermine the hard fought for recognition of and attempt to reduce inequalities in the work place, and will ripple out to create poorer working conditions and protection for the workers at the bottom of the private sector.
These attacks to pay and conditions come alongside cuts to services which will impact most on women, a barage of rhetoric which seeks to stigmatise women for their weaker role in society due to lack of acknowledgement of unpaid care work and domestic labour, and the unstated assumption that the big society will involve an increase in the unpaid labour women provide. I leave you with the following:
- Women’s unemployment is at a 20 year high, at 1.09 million. 111K jobs have been lost in the public sector since 2010. Women make up 65% of the public sector workforce. 19 councils have had redundancies which have been 100% female
- There has been a 55.7% increase in lone parents claiming JSA under coalition – alongside a sustained media campaign to stigmatise “scrounging” single mothers. Sure Start centres are shutting in deprived areas or losing funding for essential positions within, taking away the emotional support but also the subsidised childcare which they are no longer required or funded to provide in many deprived areas.
- Part time workers, predominantly women, will bear the brunt of public sector pay freezes & a rising price of living.
- There are widespread cuts to maternity services, wards, midwife budgets, health visitors. There are also massive cuts to domestic violence services, (which have lost 1/3, with 230 women per day now turned away), rape crisis centres, legal aid, and reproduction health services.
- The gender pay gap in the private sector is 2x that in the public sector. Promised private sector jobs which were supposed to spring up to fill the gap when public sector workers were made redundant have failed to materialise
- There is a big drive to shift services for vulnerable groups of women from equality based groups to religious organisations. For example, the government have taken the funding for trafficking of women from the Poppy project, an equality based group, and given it to the Salvation Army. There is an ongoing drive to replace skilled experienced counsellors in the abortion advisory role with religious based organisations. BME funding for provision for supporting vulnerable women within these groups is being taken away from experienced equality based groups with the assumption that religious groups will take over.
- Cuts of funding for Access courses, the climb up to 9K tutition fees, the attempted removal of the care to learn grant (which supports young parents in returning to education and employment), the removal of EMA and the cuts to university hardship funding will all impact heavily on access to education for young women from poor backgrounds: in particular those who have children.
The Coalition government has covertly declared war on women right from the start. I for one am very grateful that there are people prepared to fight back.