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International Women's Day Blog: #BreakTheBias

Equality - 08 Mar 2022

Megan Fisher from GMB's Women's Campaign Unit writes on International Women's Day about the ongoing fight for equal pay.

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This year’s theme for International Women's Day is #BreaktheBias, where the focus is on collectively breaking the bias to create a world free from discrimination, inequality and stereotypes1. As we reflect on the past year it’s clear we have a long way to go in achieving this and even further when we consider the lasting impact of the pandemic.

International Women’s Day was born out of women collectively fighting for better terms and conditions at work.

As women did in the late 1800’s, women today are still fighting for a fair deal at work and in society. Just this week, women in Glasgow have voted overwhelmingly to take further strike action to end the discrimination they face every day. The fight for equality for women is and should be at the heart of our labour movement.

Throughout history women have marched, protested and campaigned for a world where women’s work is truly valued and ultimately, paid the same as work done by men.

In 2022 the law gives women the right to equal pay for work of equal value and protects us from discrimination and harassment. In theory. But the law only takes us so far. Women in 2022, as women have done for centuries, are taking to the streets to fight for a fair deal at work and for the ability, not just in theory, to be safe at work, at home and on the streets.

As we look back over the past two years, it feels like we are going backwards.

In fact, we now know that the pandemic has set women back 25 years2 as women have been more likely to take on the burden of care and less likely to be in secure work3.

We are at a crossroads. The politicians are all too quickly forgetting the key workers who got us through the pandemic, the majority of whom are women4, and we can either allow society to accept the status quo of poor wages and worse treatment, or we can fight for every employer and every government to truly recognise and reward the work that is the backbone of society. Work predominately done by women.

We must act quickly to not only to root out discrimination that has been enshrined in our local authorities and throughout the private sector but to also ensure that women recover from the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic. GMB in 2022 recommits itself to this fight.

Breaking the bias against pay discrimination means focussing on campaigning for equal pay as a tool to ensuring equality in workplaces and finally valuing women’s work.

Our focus in the fight for equal pay starts with our ongoing campaigns in cities such as Glasgow, Birmingham and Fife and private employers like Asda, where ‘historic’ issues are all too real for women workers who are still being discriminated against every day.  We’ve seen this recently in Dundee where a bonus scheme for ‘craft workers’ has been running for years yet the female dominated workforce of carers, cleaners, catering staff and many others have never had access to these astronomical bonuses.

The next step is rooting out inequalities where they have existed, undiscovered or unchallenged, for some time. This takes resources, expertise and most importantly: the confidence to take on your employer. As a trade union, we must build or rebuild our expertise where it’s been lost over the past decade and more but also learn from and share experiences.

Finally, we must build our collective fight to put an end to pay discrimination by creating a movement across the country of women workers fighting together for fair and equal pay. Only as one movement, united behind this fight, will we finally #BreaktheBias.

 

  1. IWD: IWD 2022 campaign theme: #BreakTheBias (internationalwomensday.com)
  2. Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality - BBC News
  3. Inequality in the impact of the coronavirus shock: Evidence from real time surveys - ScienceDirect
  4. Coronavirus and key workers in the UK - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
 
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