Equality is of central importance to trade unions and much of the progress made on equalities over the last few decades can be attributed to the pressure placed on successive governments by the trade union movement. As important as legislation, if not more so, has been the change in society’s attitudes much – making the United Kingdom a more liberal and progressive country in which to live and work.
Despite the progress made, especially over the last 13 years, much more remains to be done and much achieved so far is currently at risk.
Trade unions are concerned that the major advances on equalities over 40 years are now at risk as a result of the impact of the ConDem government’s cuts.
Some 72 per cent of the cuts already announced by the government in their budget earlier in the summer will be borne by women, compared with 28 per cent from men. Women also comprise 65 per cent of the public sector workforce. There can be no doubt whatsoever that women will be disproportionately affected by the policies of this government.
Attacks on minority and less privileged groups are trumpeted by the government as flagship policies including arbitrary caps on immigration, demonisation of people on incapacity benefit and the abolition of ‘non-jobs’ in the public sector, many of which provide invaluable to support to the most vulnerable in society. All of these attacks and the associated rhetoric has taken place in little more than 100 days since the election.
The impact of all areas of the reforms and cuts proposed by the coalition government needs to be assessed, analysed and scrutinised as part of a process of equality-proofing public policy.
Too often in the past workers and the public have been told that equality is an unaffordable and anticompetitive aspiration. Doubtless we can expect claims from those committed to the ideology of deregulation and privatisation over the coming years. However, TUC unions have reaffirmed their commitment to lead from the front in making it clear that an attack on equality is a policy that society really can’t afford.
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