Gender pay gap was top of my agenda in 2004

Equal pay is a stubborn problem

Personnel Today first issue front coverAs the influential magazine ‘personnel today’ turns 30 years old, I’m reminded of my own input and fight to achieve equal pay for women workers, along with many others. I was the first national union officer to lead the change on closing the pay gap by calling for compulsory pay audits. Working for the GMB trade union, I campaigned for employers to have to systematically ‘check’ equal pay and resolve pay gaps. I’d go further today and say make it a crime not to pay equal pay. Even after 14 years the pay gap remains a stubborn problem.

Gender pay gap challenge to Tesco

Trade unions of all kinds have long warned employers of the dangers of not adhering to decent and fair standards and of the need to tackle discriminatory workplace practices of all sorts. Although opinion is divided, currently high street super store Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim and a possible bill running to £4bn. Thousands of women who work in Tesco stores could receive back pay totalling £20,000 if the legal challenge demanding parity with men who work in the company’s warehouses is successful.

The outcome of this legal challenge will interesting and may well see a flurry of activity by large companies to conduct such audits and close any gender pay gaps. However It remains the case that women do not receive equal pay universally and that as women workers get older the pay gap widens. This is simply not right and should be challenged. No doubt WASPI women feel a double whammy effect too!

The law in Iceland

Iceland has just introduced laws that make it illegal to pay men more than women. Firms with over 25 employees must hold a certificate that shows they have demonstrated equal pay. That is achieved by auditing the companies, the same sort of compulsory process that I was calling for in 2004.

Looking back to a Personnel Today report from over 14 years ago:

Union calls for compulsory pay audits to bridge gender pay gap

14 Jan 2004

 GMB union is pushing for compulsory pay audits after its latest research showed
little or no signs of change in pay discrimination across the country.

 worst offender is London, with the capital’s average gender pay gap standing at
£200. In the South East and Eastern England it is £145, it’s £120 in the South
West, £115 in the North West, £113 in the West Midlands, £111 in Scotland, £109
in the East Midlands, £91 in Wales and £90 in the North East.

GMB equal rights officer Karen Constantine said:
For too long we have seen women being paid less purely because they are women. The only way to resolve the problem is to ensure all employers conduct equal pay audits. There has been a lack of enthusiasm to do so voluntarily, so compulsion is the way forward.

The campaign launch was more fully covered by Startups magazine (story here).