TUC Equality Audit 2009 - Progress on Bargaining for Equality at Work

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Executive summary

The biennial TUC Equality Audits reveal the enormous spread and depth of work done by TUC affiliates in their attempts to provide real equality for all categories of worker. The 2009 TUC Equality Audit is no exception.

Unions have issued guidance in hundreds of detailed areas across all 12 broad equalities areas covered by this audit, and in the majority of areas there is evidence that this work has borne some fruit in terms of real results in the workplace.

The bulk of this report is descriptive, providing a detailed picture of the nature of the negotiating policies that unions are attempting to follow in their collective bargaining with employers. It also provides detailed information on some of the best collective agreements they have managed to reach.

This report provides figures for the number or proportion of unions issuing guidance on each of the detailed topics. It will be noted that these tend to be lower than the equivalent figures published in the 2005 TUC Equality Audit (the last one covering collective bargaining).

However, this cannot necessarily be construed as representing a decline in activity on the part of affiliates, as the Audit questionnaire is not designed to give an accurate statistical picture of trends over the period 2005-09. The completed questionnaire represents the subjective view of the individual completing it, who is often a different individual from the person who returned the previous Audit.

The figures for this 2009 TUC Equality Audit give an indication of which topics unions have felt it most useful to advise their negotiators on, and also in which areas they are most likely to have achieved success in terms of collective bargaining with employers in the last four years. The table on page 7 summarises this picture.

Many unions have issued general equality policies or guidance for their negotiators. This includes materials to raise awareness of and build the case for equality, advice on the overall legal framework, and guidance on negotiating around time off and facilities for representatives dealing with equalities issues.

The other top issue for the provision of guidance/policy is flexible working and work/life balance, which covers the standard range of flexible working options but also the aim of extending the right to request to all workers and 'tackling the long-hours culture'. Flexible working and work/life balance is also an area where a relatively high amount has been achieved through collective bargaining, with 44 per cent of unions saying they have achieved results on this topic.

A large proportion of unions (63 per cent) have issued materials to negotiators on women's pay and employment, which was also cited as the clear top equalities bargaining priority for unions over the last two years. However, fewer than a third of unions (30 per cent) say they have achieved bargaining success with employers in this area.6

The area where most unions report that they have actually struck deals with employers since 2005 is working parents, parents-to-be and carers. Just over half of all unions (51 per cent) have been successful in this area. While the law has been substantially improved in this area over the past four years, it seems this has stimulated negotiators to improve upon the statutory minimum arrangements rather than relying on them.

An indication of unions' acceptance to take on an ever-widening range of equalities issues is provided by the fact that more than one in three unions have issued negotiating guidance or policy on issues around trans workers, and the same proportion have done so in the area of migrant workers.

Indeed almost a quarter of unions have achieved negotiating successes for migrant workers' equality in areas such as provision of time off for English language training, recognition of foreign qualifications, prevention of unreasonable deductions from wages and recognition agreements with agencies supplying migrant workers.

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