Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A shocking distortion of the Equal Pay law

The bin strike in Leeds rumbles on, now in its eighth week, even the Prime Minister has called for both sides to find a solution to end the dispute for the people of Leeds whose overflowing bins are bringing both misery and health concerns, amid fears it could continue to Christmas.

But the issue is not simply a pay-cut issue in difficult economic times, although it is reported that the council wish to cut workers' pay by a third in a wage barely over £17000 per year. The council have argued that due to Equal Pay legislation and job evaluation exercises, they have assessed the role as equivalent to that of women doing a less well paid role and rather than raising women's pay, they want to cut the pay of (mainly male) refuse workers instead. This is a gross misapplication of the Equal Pay ethos which is designed to address the endemic failure in society to pay women the same rate as men. Equal Pay provided legal means to ensure that 'women's work' can be raised to its appropriate standing and tackle inequality.

This is then an abuse of the spirit of the law which is intended to protect women, providing a callous pay-cut justification to a council wishing to save money, so hundreds of men will suffer as a result. Not only are their wages being cut but at the same time society is sending them a message about their worth and value at a time when it should be helping those on low pay to remain in their homes and to keep the economy moving.

But of equal concern is how the laws intended to provide equality to women are being subverted. So along with the plight of hundreds of men there is a feminist case to defend in the refuse collector's strike action. We cant allow legislation intended to raise women's pay be used to justify paying both genders the lowest common denominator.


  1. Good blog, this issue in Leeds needs highlighting. The Tory/Lib Dem council has acted appallingly in trying to use the equal pay laws to justify a massive pay cut for the workers.

  2. Couldn't agree more. The whole situation is disgraceful. I don't rate the jobs as equivalent, personally, but that's hardly the point, anyway. It's an abuse of the law and to expect people (especially those on what's barely a living wage) to take a pay cut in these economically challenging times is unreasonable and unacceptable. No wonder they've not taken it lying down. As for the bins situation itself - unbelievable. Here we are worrying about potential pandemic, and now we've rats, flies and miasmas to contend with also. Council, get a grip.

  3. Most councils are inefficiently run, so in order to to fund the extra wages for low-paid women why not target some of the poorly performing managers and departments? The council is displaying incredible ineptitude by expecting the refuse workers to accept such draconian pay cuts.

  4. I was unaware of any of this.Why would they be allowed to disrespect a very late and very reasonable law?Are they really allowed to sneer at equality?Who do these council decision makers answer to,someone must be in charge??Please tell me there is a firm person about to step in and tell them to comply,or what is the point in any of it if its just a wishy washy rule.If they get away with this then it will just say to me that Labour dont mean a word they say,that they want votes on superficial policies.