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Gender Equality & Best Value Inquiry

The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee Consultation Paper

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 enhance them.

We have therefore highlighted the following areas that should be integral to Best Value requirements.


  1. Equal Pay:
  2. 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 by gender.


  3. Work - Life Balance : The Case for Flexible Working

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.

  1. Provision of Services by the Private and Voluntary Services

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 employees.

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 and represent.

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.

Executive Summary

  • Equal Pay:

Scottish Executive to make equal pay audits for all local authorities as a condition of funding.

  • Work-Life Balance:

Councils to improve their options on flexible working arrangements for all staff and improve training for managers in this area.

  • Low Pay:

Councils to be encouraged to consistently address the issue of low pay through annual wage negotiations, equal pay audits and other pro-active measures.

  • Private and Voluntary Sector:

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
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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