Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
2 MARCH 2005
Q60 Chairman: Could you introduce yourselves,
Ms McCulloch: I am the National
Equalities Officer for Amicus. I was formerly in the engineering
section of Amicus. We have been through various amalgamations.
I have been a full-time officer with Amicus for six years.
Ms Dawson: I still have my old
GPMU title of Equality Policy Adviser. I have been working for
the union at national level for 26 years with eight years in equality.
Q61 Chairman: We would like to start
this morning with this. The picture within the British labour
market is somewhat varied in the sense that we have seen in recent
years great breakthroughs in areas like the law and medicine,
but then in other areas where I think your organisation recruits,
for example the Post Office or Royal Mail and financial services,
there are still rather more than just glass ceilings, it would
appear, on advancement. Have you given any thought to why there
seems to be this patchiness about the ability of women to make
breakthroughs across the labour market?
Ms McCulloch: Traditionally it
is because women have always tended to go into low-paid jobs.
I think attitudes need to be changed, especially within the finance
sector where we have a pay gap of 43%, which is pretty shocking.
It is really difficult for women to be promoted within the finance
Q62 Chairman: Within the finance sector,
there would not be a great deal of difference about the starting
pay, would there, in the sense that school leavers or graduates
going into an insurance company or a bank would not necessarily
be starting off on different wages, would they, assuming they
had the same group of GCSEs, A levels or Highers?
Ms McCulloch: I think it very
much depends: within the finance sector there are not really any
published salary scales so that there is no clear picture to see
the salary scales. Within the finance sector, people tend to be
promoted and told not to tell their colleagues what they are earning.
There is a lot of secrecy around the rates of pay within the finance
Q63 Chairman: What about postal services?
Ms McCulloch: We have the CMA,
the managers' association, which is part of the Royal Mail. To
be perfectly honest with you, we inherited the CMA when we amalgamated
with MSF. The CMA is quite a secretive organisation. Even as a
union we have had difficulty trying to make a breakthrough with
them. Even though they are part of Amicus, they are very much
an entity on their own within Amicus.
Chairman: We have had dealings with the
CMA, although I believe there are some personnel changes being
made in the organisation at the moment. We have dealt with them
in their capacity as the managers' organisation for Crown post
offices and the like. We may go to them directly or perhaps you
could provide us with additional information.
Q64 Linda Perham: In your evidence you
say that the Government needs to address the low value attached
to occupations dominated by women. The suggestion you make is
an increase in the national minimum wage. I wonder if that would
actually work or whether differentials would be restored, with
women slightly better off in absolute but not relative terms?
Ms McCulloch: Raising the minimum
wage will deal with the symptoms but not with the cause of the
problem. I believe again this is down to attitudes and people's
attitude towards women's work, which has traditionally always
been low paid. Although more women benefitted out of the minimum
wage than men, that has only addressed the symptoms and not the
Q65 Linda Perham: You talk about symptoms
but culturally we rate the caring professions lower than commercial
ones. Do you think that is because those professions are dominated
by women anyway: nursing and people working in care homes, that
kind of work? People see that most of the people working in those
sectors are women and therefore do not value the work, or is it
that we just value something that looks as if it is connected
with money or higher status than in those professions?
Ms Dawson: This does not only
apply to the caring professions. If you look at the printing sector,
which I am most familiar with, the work that women do is not valued.
If you go back to some of the research that people like Philips
and Taylor did, it is quite clear that skilled work, valued work,
is the work men do and that is the value that is put on it. For
instance, in printing we would say that women have a variety of
what you might call smaller skills. The cumulative effect of those
skills is not taken into account in their pay. The men have these
big skills of running the big print machines, and they do get
value for that and they get all the extras that go with it. The
women who run the smaller machines do not get the extras, for
instance. There is very much this segregation of almost totally
men in what are called the class one skilled occupations and women
in the class three unskilled occupations.
Q66 Linda Perham: I wonder how we change
that and change attitudes and whether it is going to be an uphill
battle. There are more women training as doctors now whereas previously
there were not. For instance, there are more men in nursing but
they tend to be the kind of charge nurse rather than the person
at the lower level. Every profession that men go into they seem
to get the top jobs. That could be a problem as well. I wonder
how we change that and how quickly it could be changed, or do
we have to be resigned to that taking a long time? Are there positive
things that we, the Government, could do or that people who care
about this can do?
Ms Dawson: That question covers
many of the questions here. It is a bit of both. Some of it is
a long-term thing about changing attitudes. In the sectors I am
most familiar with, I hear that even when men come in at a class
three level, they rise much quicker; they get access to training
much more quickly. Women do not get access to training. Even when
a woman has been working on a machine for 20 years, she will not
have been allowed to set that machine but she will have watched
the men doing it for 20 years. They will not give her the right
to set the machine because they would have to pay more if they
do. She is then kept in this lower skilled occupation. There are
all sorts of issues around access to training. This has been a
big issue for the former GPMU and I think it was also for the
old AEEU because we come from those old craft skilled sectors.
Skills are what are valued and if you cannot gain access to those
skills, you are not valued.
Q67 Linda Perham: What can trade unions
do to change the attitude of their members to so-called women's
Ms McCulloch: For years trade
unions have been addressing the situation internally by changing
attitudes towards women. We find we are getting more and more
women officers coming through in my own union and women going
into senior positions within the union. We will continue to do
that. We need to promote best practice. As an organisation, we
need to reflect the value of women within our organisation and,
hopefully, that will have an effect on employers when it filters
Q68 Chairman: The point you seem to be
making there is two-sided. One, when jobs come up that women could
do just as easily as men, the employers choose men. Your fellow
workers, the males, do not argue for women to get the jobs. No
matter how many women officials you have in the union, you would
need to change the culture of the membership, not really the structure
of the union. It is not that the structure of the union does not
need changing but that can be done comparatively easily. This
is about getting your members and the employers with whom you
negotiate to change their attitudes towards allowing women to
have access to what would be hitherto male preserves.
Ms Dawson: Touching on what the
union has done, the GPMU moved very quickly during the 90s when
it became the GPMU to address the fact that women were not represented
in the structures of the union. We gained guaranteed proportional
representation at all levels.
Q69 Chairman: Except in the workplace?
Ms Dawson: You are right. That
in itself did not change things because women are one-third of
the workforce in the printing industry, so they are in a minority
anyway and they form only 17% of union membership. There is not
a big enough critical mass there. When you are looking at changing
the attitudes of our members, you have to look at the realities
of the workplace. One of the things that men fearand the
evidence is there from academic studyis that when a lot
of women come into a profession it becomes feminised and the rates
of pay drop, so men see women as a threat. We have to overcome
that fear. The whole issue of equal pay comes into this very much
and the protection of the rates. We have had examples. We are
one of the few areas where there have been examples of employers
using the equal pay legislation to reduce rates in a sector of
the industry back in the 1990s. They linked it to de-recognition
of the union. Technology came in and destroyed compositors' jobs
so that women could come in and do the jobs on keyboards but when
they were brought in at up to £100 less than the men were
currently earning, those men were not prepared to stay and work
on those rates. So they offered them big packages of redundancy
and, by default, those rates dropped by £100 per week. When
you have that experience in your sector and you are trying to
win men over to say, "Let us get women into these jobs",
you have a hell of job to do.
Q70 Chairman: Is what you describe commonplace
or was it just an exception?
Ms Dawson: It was in the provincial
and national newspapers, so it was a whole sector of the printing
industry that went down that route. Now that we are trying to
get back in through the recognition laws, we are finding people
doing those kinds of typesetting jobs on something like £8,500
a year. Historically that was an occupation that was paid extremely
highly. You have a big problem there to convince the men that
the women are not going to be a threat if they come in large numbers
to skilled occupations. We need some kind of protection there
to stop a reduction in rates.
Q71 Mr Clapham: Do you feel that the
loss of a lot of the industrial training boards might have been
a set-back for changing attitudes in the workplace? I am thinking
particularly about engineering. It would have provided a route
whereby the unions could have worked with the training boards
to ensure that women were brought through.
Ms McCulloch: I would tend to
agree with you there. We have had some breakthroughs in manufacturing,
particularly in engineering. I will quote a company I used to
work for, Philips, a big multinational company. For years and
years women were traditionally doing unskilled jobs and could
not progress into semi-skilled or skilled jobs. When you have
a female factory convenor and half the workforce is women and
half men, you just go in and keep on battering the management
over the head. Eventually we got women progressing up through
and into semi-skilled jobs. So it can be done but it is all about
Ms Dawson: Similarly, when the
printing and publishing industry training board went that was
disastrous in terms of trying to change the make-up of the skilled
occupations. That is a sector with many small companies. Poaching
is a scary thing to those companies. They are not going to invest
in training if they know that Joe Bloggs up the road is going
to poach that person. That is why we have been so big on pushing
this idea of a sector-based training level. We need to have a
level playing field to stop that kind of poaching going on. It
also exacerbates the pay gap because you have skill shortages
in the industry, very much in line with the EOC's recent research
in plumbing and those sorts of areas. The men can bid up their
pay because of the skill shortages and that just exacerbates the
Q72 Judy Mallaber: I am interested in
the printer/compositor/typing issues. It strikes me that is very
similar to originally what would now be called a secretary, a
job done by men, personal assistants. When it became a female
job, it had less status. This is rather depressing. Does it mean
that the skill of the person doing the layout, the typing or work
on the machine is slightly different from being on the block in
the traditional printer's way of doing it? It is still highly
skilled and your top designers and layout people may get a lot
of work. Would you think that that means by definition when a
skill becomes associated with women the value of it is going to
be downgraded? If so, it makes it quite hard to see how we deal
with the issue.
Ms Dawson: That was the experience
in that sector. It does become more complex than that because
there are still men doing those jobs. They tend to differentiate
the work the men do from what the women do. We have taken equal
pay cases, for instance, where you have women on the front desk
taking adverts, dealing with money and the public, and doing the
basic typesetting of the ads, the births, deaths and marriages
and things. You have the men behind the scenes doing the display
ads. They are paid more than the women. That is because the women's
skills in handling the money and the public and so on are not
valued. In equal value terms, they would add up to the skills
the men have in displaywork but those people skills are not brought
into the equation when defining what the jobs are worth. It does
become more complex than just saying that women automatically
devalue the work.
Q73 Judy Mallaber: If a woman was doing
the display ads, would that still be regarded as being a more
skilled job than some of the other jobs?
Ms Dawson: I think if the union
was in there, it would be. Where we have been de-recognised, I
think there would be some attempt to reduce those rates. That
has been our experience in trying to get back into those areas
we were pushed out of and where these things happened. Where the
union is present and you can get women in, there is still a chance
of holding up the rates. Where that happened in provincial newspapers,
it was coupled with de-recognition of the union, so there was
not even the ability of the union to fight to hold those rates.
Q74 Mr Evans: I declare my interest as
per the Register of Members' Interests. Women getting pregnant
and then being sacked illegally: do you think this happens a lot?
Ms McCulloch: It does. The EOC
has just done a report on that.
Ms Dawson: Sacking is one thing
that does happen. Let us say that sometimes the situation is made
so difficult that the women leave. There are all sorts of other
quite obvious discriminations that go on. One example I had a
while back was of an employer who was not prepared to pay sick
pay to a woman who was pregnant. When I challenged him and said
that was discrimination, he said, "But if I pay her sick
pay, they will all get pregnant". You really do not expect
to hear that in this day and age, but those attitudes are still
there. I know in the areas you are concerned about the issues
about parental leave do come up. Clearly these are all cost issues
for employers. My point on the issue around parental leave, and
the question about women in particular taking parental leave,
is not just about women taking parental leave; it should be about
men and women taking parental leave. The whole point of that legislation
coming in was to start breaking down the occupational segregation
in the home so that there is more of a level playing field there.
As long as women are the target audience and men are not being
brought into this, there is always going to be a means of saying
that women are a cost to the company.
Q75 Mr Evans: The fact is that in reality,
although men have the opportunity to take paternity leave, they
are not doing that to any extent such as the women are doing it.
Clearly that then leads on to other questions. I want to tackle
the point about employers sacking women for becoming pregnant.
It is illegal. I do not know how many challenges there are against
this sort of thing for unfair dismissal. Clearly, as you say,
it might not just be that the employer cannot say, "Oh, gosh,
you are pregnant, you are sacked". It is for other reasons,
is it not? You say they just make it difficult so that, in the
end, the women cannot stand it any more and leave.
Ms Dawson: Of course, certainly
in the sectors I am most familiar with, there have been a lot
of redundancies in the last four or five years.
Q76 Mr Evans: Do the women go first?
Ms Dawson: Yes. There is a means
of doing it. If you are there in the 15th week before the baby
is due, then you get all your rights anyway. I think there was
one woman who would have qualified for maternity leave but she
was made redundant two days before that. That kind of thing goes
on. Many cases that come to me are about stopping this before
it gets to that level. People come to me, I give them advice,
and they can stop it happening. Clearly there are many challenges
and ways in which people are trying to manipulate the law to find
ways to get the women out.
Q77 Mr Evans: Then there is the hidden
discrimination which is that women then may be overlooked for
promotion and they may not be chosen for key jobs, therefore better
paid jobs, simply because they are women. Do you see that as a
problem? I know you welcomed maternity and paternity leave. You
recognise as well that it is a cost to employers and has significant
impacts on smaller businesses. Do you see this as a key issue
and what do you think can be done about tackling that sort of
Ms Dawson: To complete what I
was saying about the men taking paternity leave, the reality is
that men are not going to do that while the work is so lowly paid
or while there is no pay for parental leave. When we say that
men can take it but they are not doing so, if you have a printer
on £500 plus a week, he is not going to take a week off on
low pay. The default scheme under the parental leave regulations
has been a disaster because employers do no more than the default
scheme. If somebody wants to take just one day's parental leave,
they are forced to take a week and no-one is going to take that
week with no pay. The way that some of the regulations are put
together is deeply unhelpful in dealing with these issues.
Ms McCulloch: With regard to paternity
leave, we do have some examples of really good employers out there
with regard to paternity leave. We have agreements in which people
were achieving paternity leave in 1996 at a full week's pay. Obviously
that was before the regulations came into force. We do have some
good companies out there with good examples. Even when the regulations
did come in for paternity pay, those companies upped that to two
weeks paid paternity leave at the normal rate of pay. It would
be great if we could convince the rest of the employers to do
the same. With regard to maternity leave, obviously we welcomed
the extension of maternity leave, but there are lots of women
out there who cannot afford to take nine months' maternity leave
at the current rates for maternity leave.
Ms Dawson: You mentioned women
being bypassed for promotion. There is another angle to that.
Quite often, any woman who does take maternity leave comes back
and is forced on to a low-grade job. It can be ridiculous. There
was one woman on a machine in a direct mail company who only took
15 weeks and came back and the employer said, "You have been
away for a few weeks so you had better go on this low-rated machine".
That is unlawful but unless those people know that it is unlawful
and know to challenge it, we do not have the opportunity to get
in there. That was a company where we were not recognised, so
it was very difficult to do that much anyway.
Q78 Chairman: Do you think that there
should be some kind of fact sheet or information given to a woman
when she discovers she is pregnant and goes to the doctor or goes
to a clinic? Should there be more advice about the rates? Not
only are women perhaps traditionally in lower paid jobs, in low
esteem situations, but also they may not be unionised and they
might not have any idea of their rights and no means of learning
those rights. After all, most women are probably pregnant no more
than about three times in their life. There is not a lot of knowledge
about this when it comes down to it. At the moment, I would think
the level of ignorance about this amongst women must be very high.
Do you think even just providing a fact sheet when they go to
the doctor or to the clinic would help? The doctor would probably
want to be paid for handing out that fact sheet.
Ms McCulloch: Maternity clinics
could issue a booklet called Know your rights when you are
pregnant. That would help. We produce loads of publications
on maternity rights. You are right, there are many women out there
who are not involved in trade unions and probably do not know
their rights. I think an A5-sized booklet that they could pick
up at a maternity clinic would be a great idea.
Ms Dawson: To add to that: you
should include the flexibility regulations in that. One of the
big issues that comes to me is about women wanting to return on
part-time hours. Out of interest, more men are in this situation
now because more men are getting custody of children or joint
custody. They have just as hard a time as the women do because
obviously they run the machines and the employer does not want
them to be off those machines. We are starting to see this becoming
a much bigger problem for men as well as women. Anything that
can be done to let people know what their rights are in this regard
would be really helpful.
Q79 Linda Perham: Men could also be carers
of elderly relatives?
Ms Dawson: Yes, that is right.