Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Millions of pounds may have to be paid back to some of the UK’s biggest supermarket employees, the vast majority of which are women, following an equal pay claim against one of the country’s leading retailers.

The claims echo the £1bn  landmark ruling by the Supreme court two years ago, which found in favour of thousands of female workers who claimed Birmingham City Council had paid them less than other workers, mainly men, for doing equivalent work.

If the case against the supermarket is proved then it could mean other supermarkets and retailers face similar claims.

While reading the report it was a surprise to learn that well over 100,000 equal pay cases had been brought between 2009 and 2012.

Cases like these will continue for many years to come, I dare say, because women are frequently still paid differently for equivalent work to their male colleagues.

Equal pay cases are, unsurprisingly, complex and therefore take many years to complete, as it did for two home care workers featured in Saturday’s Guardian. Joan Clulow and Pamela Saunders’ case wasn’t settled for six years following a tough battle after they found they had been underpaid in their roles.

Meanwhile there is just six weeks to go until the European Elections, and the Brussels based newspaper European Voice, asks: “The European Parliament, 2014-2019- what’s at Stake?” Its special report explores what kind of European Parliament will emerge following the election and examines different scenarios.

In another ‘special report’ the same paper  compares access to healthcare across member states and reveals that equality to access for all is far from reality. Exclusion or insufficient access is largely determined by socio economic factors, it says.

However, the report includes a survey which finds gender to be a significant factor in determining access and shows that women suffer more significantly than men in this regard; and this was the case across all the EU countries surveyed.

Although member states largely take responsibility for their own healthcare provision the Commission has a level of scrutiny over national healthcare decisions. For example, the Commission has started to examine national healthcare spending and an important task is to ensure that healthcare funding is not only spent wisely but that it is accessible.

Of course better provision for vulnerable groups must be addressed, such as those affected by socio economic factors- but also the significant gender inequality must also be examined.

Comissioner Reding shares her concerns about gender pay gaps

Labour Party

The Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee met Commissioner Reding yesterday who shared with us some of the work she has been doing in the Comission over the last year.

 One of the things she discussed was the need to review the current status of the gender pay directive.

The gender pay gap remains an issue across almost all European countries. It is true that some do better than others, such as in Slovenia where the gap is low (2%) compared to Estonia (27%).

The majority of EU countries recorded a higher gender pay gap in the private sector than in the public sector in 2011.

Collective pay agreements protect public sector workers to an extent and employers in the UK are more observant of this especially following recent high profile cases in Birmingham City Council, for example.  It became liable for equal pay claims that reportedly rose to £757mn following a claim bought by female care workers, cleaners and other employees who said they had been paid significantly less than their male counterparts for similar work.

While the gender pay gap is still an issue, we need to monitor it closely and address it in the same way that we continue to tackle the issue of female representation on company boards.

Britain’s Olympic Greats – Jane Sixsmith

Labour Party

My series on outstanding British women Olympians continues today with OlyJane Sixsmith MBE, Britain’s best known hockey player. 

Born on 5th September 1967 in Sutton Coldfield, Jane took up hockey at the age of twelve after she was told that she could no longer play for a boys’ football team.  She went on to play hockey at club level for her home town was chosen for England’s under-18 squad.

Jane played as a forward scoring many goals for England and Great Britain in many competitions.  She is the only British Hockey player to play for Team GB in four consecutive Olympics.  Her greatest achievement came in 1992 in Barcelona when she captained the team to a bronze medal.

After retiring from international hockey in 2000 Jane stated:

“Sport has opened up so many opportunities. I’ve travelled the world, competed at every major tournament, winning medals at European, Commonwealth and Olympic level. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my sporting career and wouldn’t change it for anything. If you never have a go, you’ll never know!”

She takes the promotion of sport very seriously and now works for Birmingham City Council as the hockey developer.  This involves taking hockey into primary schools, promoting the sport and trying to “ignore the looks of consternation on teachers’ faces at the prospect of excited nine-year-olds chasing each other around with big sticks”.