Gender Equality & Best Value Inquiry
The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee
The UNISON Scotland Response
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to submit
evidence to this inquiry.
We are the largest trade union in Scotland and represent
over 140,000 members, 66% of whom are women. Many of these women
are at the lower end of the pay scales, have the major responsibility
for child and other care, and rely on local government not only
as service-users but also as employees.
UNISON is particularly pleased that the Equal Opportunities
Committee has highlighted the need for Best Value to take account
of equal opportunity requirements.
We believe that to continue to treat equal opportunities
as a marginalised issue would negate the ultimate aim of Best Value
and in the long term produce a poorer service for the people of
Scotland. There is evidence which shows that when employers undertake
cost-cutting exercises, equal opportunities is the first to suffer.
Best Value should not be used an as excuse to weaken existing equal
opportunities in local government. It should be an opportunity to
We have therefore highlighted the following areas
that should be integral to Best Value requirements.
Last year the Scottish Executive, in partnership
with other relevant agencies and employers, launched the "Close
the Gap" initiative - a campaign aimed at reducing the pay
gap between men and women. This was an important step in addressing
the issue of equal pay and low pay for women. It is recognised
that the Executive has no reserved powers to deal directly with
the issue of equal pay. Nevertheless we understand that the Executive
has ordered all Non-Departmental Public Bodies to complete equal
pay audits by April 2003.
Pay is one of the key factors affecting motivation
and relationships at work. Employers are responsible for providing
equal pay and for ensuring that pay systems are transparent and
easy to understand. An equal pay audit can ensure that an organisation
is providing equal pay. It is important to develop pay arrangements
that are right for the organisation and which reward employees
fairly. Providing equal pay for equal work is central to the concept
of rewarding people fairly for what they do.
As the funding for local government in Scotland
comes from the Executive, we believe that a future condition of
funding should be that all local authorities must undertake equal
pay audits and set up structures to continue to monitor pay outcomes
Work - Life Balance : The Case for Flexible
One of the key features of Best Value will be in the
provision of caring services, whether it be for the old, the infirm
and the young. Whilst recognising the continuing constraints on
funding in this area, it is important to remember that all local
government employees are also service users. Women still
accept the major share of responsibility for childcare and other
caring functions. It is therefore essential that local authorities
as employers consider the case for flexible working as integral
to Best Value.
The case for flexible working options has become more
compelling in recent years. Workforce demographics demonstrate why
such change is essential. Some examples, based on UK wide research,
show that: -
- In the next 10 years the workforce will increase by 1.5
million - of which 85% will be women;
- 69% of women between 16 and 59 now work;
- 78% of women with school-age children (aged between 6 and
13) work outside the home;
- In 1996, one adult in Britain was looking after, or providing
some regular service, for a sick or elderly person;
Statistics like these and employee expectations will
clearly create new challenges for employers in the 21st
century. Best Value is designed to harness and build on the experience
and expertise of its staff. If councils wish to utilise these skills
and experience, then they need to seriously consider the benefits
that new and flexible ways of working can provide by incorporating
them into their new structures.
UNISON's experience in this area is that there is
considerable reluctance by managers to embrace concepts of different
working patterns due to their perception that it is either difficult
to manage or that they are creating an improved condition than other
staff are currently enjoying, i.e. special treatment. This attitude
has no real place in the development of modern local government
and needs to be addressed if the successful mainstreaming of equalities
in Best Value is to be achieved.
3. Low Pay:
UNISON has campaigned over many years to address the
issue of low pay. Whilst the introduction of the National Minimum
Wage clearly went a long way in helping people - mostly women -
out of the poverty trap, we believe that more imaginative ways of
improving pay for those at the lower end of the market needs to
be addressed. We welcome the 2001 Scottish local government pay
settlement which guaranteed a minimum pay rate of £5.00 an hour,
but would seek to see that ensure that this rate does increase to
keep pace with a living wage based on minimum income standards.
Provision of Services by the Private and
The emphasis on partnership working under Best Value
has led to an increase in contracting out the provision of services
to the private and voluntary sectors. In many cases this perpetuates
gender pay inequalities.
Women make up the majority of the workforce in these
sectors, which traditionally pay staff poorly. Although staff transferred
across from local authorities may have their terms and conditions
protected by TUPE legislation, staff who join the contractors after
transfer often have to accept worse terms and conditions than their
transferred colleagues creating a ‘two-tier' workforce.
Tackling the two-tier workforce requires legislation
that binds not only the local authorities which provide services
directly but also the private and voluntary sectors who may be contracted
to provide such services. UNISON is campaigning for a ‘Fair Employment'
clause to be included in the Local Government Bill. Such a clause
could be worded as follows:
"Each employee of a service provider who is engaged,
shall be employed by the provider on terms and conditions of service,
which are, when considered as a whole, no less favourable to an
employee contracted to the national agreement on pay and conditions
of service of the Scottish Joint Council for local government
For the purpose of this clause, the phrase terms and conditions
of service shall include, but shall not be limited to, all provisions
relating to salary, benefits, entitlements, hours of work, holiday
entitlement and pension rights."
In this submission, UNISON has highlighted the four
main areas of equality that, at present, are central to our bargaining
and organising agenda for women. We believe they are consistent
with the Parliament's Equality Strategy, which we have endorsed
and that we are pursuing with employers in all the areas we recruit
We would welcome the opportunity to address these
issues in more detail with the Parliament's Equal Opportunities
Committee and the relevant ministers in due course.
Scottish Executive to make equal pay audits for all
local authorities as a condition of funding.
Councils to improve their options on flexible working
arrangements for all staff and improve training for managers in
Councils to be encouraged to consistently address
the issue of low pay through annual wage negotiations, equal pay
audits and other pro-active measures.
That Councils include a "Fair Employment"
Clause in all Contracted out Services to ensure the protection of
staff from low pay and disadvantaged working conditions.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835