Ordinary women should not pay the penalty for the recklessness of a few male bankers, says TUC

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date: Thursday 12 March 2009

embargo: For immediate release

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will today (Thursday) warn that women should not bear the brunt of reckless decisions made by a few male bankers.

The TUC General Secretary will urge the Government to invest in a new deal for women to ensure that the recession does not open the door to widespread discrimination and inequality. The TUC believes the new deal should include universal access to world-class childcare and action to close the gender pay gap, including mandatory pay audits.

Addressing delegates at the TUC Women's Conference at the Spa Complex in South Bay, Scarborough today, Brendan Barber will say:

'As the global economic crisis intensifies and recession threatens to become depression, women everywhere are feeling the consequences.

'And unlike the downturns of the early '80s and early '90s, women are being affected just as much as men.

'So today I urge the Government to redouble its efforts to secure a better deal for women - because the need for fairness has never been greater than now.

'In particular I urge ministers not to shelve their plans to introduce stronger maternity and equality rights; not to give in to the all too predictable lobbying by business.

'This economic crisis was created by a small number of male bankers; and ordinary women should not be made to pay the penalty for their recklessness.

'Now - perhaps more than ever - we need bold, imaginative action to address both the causes and the effects of this systemic inequality.

'That means waging war on the poverty that afflicts millions of women and their children.

'That means reforming a labour market that still ranks as one of the most gender unequal anywhere in the developed world.

'And yes, that means thinking the unthinkable on policy.

'If we can nationalise the commanding heights of our economy, then why can't we legislate for mandatory equal pay audits?

'If we can find £1.5 trillion to bail out the banks, then why can't we spend a fraction of that to provide world-class childcare for all?

'And if we can rediscover the virtues of Keynesianism, then why can't we invest in a New Deal for women in this country?

'A New Deal that says we will no longer tolerate one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe, an injustice that costs a typical woman £330,000 over a lifetime.

'A New Deal that tackles the occupational segregation that condemns so many women to low-paid, undervalued work.

'And a New Deal that addresses the UK's chronic motherhood penalty, which research shows is among the worst anywhere in the industrialised world.'

Solicitor General and Minister in charge of taking the Equality Bill through the house Vera Baird will speak today on 'Safeguarding Women at Work during the Recession'.

She will say: 'These are turbulent economic times but I am confident that together Government and the trade union movement can ensure that we come out of these difficulties stronger.

'We have already improved maternity pay and leave, more than doubled the number of childcare places and, from April, will extend the right to request flexible working to parents with children up to the age of 16.

'We've narrowed the gender pay gap by 18 per cent over the last twelve years, and our upcoming Equality Bill will contain tough new measures to further tackle unequal pay, such as banning secrecy clauses which prevent colleagues discussing their pay.

'This is not a time to give up striving for greater equality. The economic downturn is not an excuse to cut back on gender equality initiatives in the workplace. Equality is for all times not just the good times.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- A full copy of Brendan Barber's speech is available from the TUC press office.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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