7 March 2022

Strength in numbers: working together to break the bias.

For Women's History Month Angela blogs about how women can take inspiration from those who have gone before and work together to smash the gender pay gap - and win the PCS ballot.

PCS members have received a real-terms pay cut year on year since 2011, meaning we are now on average £2,300 a year worse off than we would have been had our pay kept pace with inflation. On top of this, the government continues to make us overpay on our pensions, with no attempt to refund the monies we have overpaid since 2019.  And we are now facing the worse cost of living crisis for thirty years. with high 5.4% inflation, spiralling gas and electricity costs, and the increase to National Insurance contributions, Council Tax rises, and more.

Fact!  We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis.  Fact! Women are disproportionately bearing the brunt.

The Gender Pay Gap tells us that women still earn on average 18% less than men. We have seen some improvements over the decades following industrial action taken by women such as the striking women workers of Dagenham whose demand for equal pay in 1968 led to to the 1970 Equal Pay act.  We have also seen many successful outcomes at the employment tribunal, with Asda workers recently winning an equal pay victory, yet when compared with men, women are still underpaid to the equivalent of working two months a year for free.

The reasons for this pay gap move far beyond the pay slip and into the realms of gender inequality.  A clear example is in the civil service. Civil servants are paid by grade so on the face of it there is no pay gap, but when we look at the statistics, we see the disparities begin to appear. The higher the grade, the less women we see.  Women face blocks to progression: discrimination, caring for sick or disabled relatives, for children.  In many cases extortionate childcare costs will nullify any increase in pay so taking the better paid promotion is pointless. 

More often left ‘holding the baby’, mothers still head up most single parent households, so it is predominantly women that work part-time contracts and are unable to work overtime.  The cooking, cleaning and domestic chores undertaken in the home after being at work constituting hours of tiring, and unpaid home working. Far too many civil service workers claim Universal Credit; and women will make up a huge proportion of staff that are claimants.

There is also a race, disability, and LGBT+ pay gap.  Our Black and disabled members face blocks to promotion, lack of opportunities, discriminatory practices.  Our LGBT+ members too face high levels of discrimination. Consider then the impact on the income of a Black, disabled, LGBT+ woman who faces all of those inequalities together.

So, PCS women, what can we do to break that bias?  We can stand together, and demand what we are owed.

PCS has moved to a consultative ballot to test how members feel about the continued pay cuts and the pensions robbery. And here’s the thing - women make up over 50% of our union, if we each cast our vote, we can smash that threshold, and with our male comrades beside us, we can smash the ballot!

PCS women, it’s time for us to do like our sisters in Dagenham! Use our collective strength, tell every woman to use their vote, and we can make the government listen.