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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Unions demand equal pay for women
Women engineer on phone
On average, women are paid 18% less than men
A stormy meeting of union leaders has turned its anger towards wage discrimination against women, demanding that employers ensure equal pay.

Women, paid on average 123 a week less than men, are "furious" at being treated like second class citizens, union Amicus said.

Open in new window : Trade unions guide
The big unions at TUC 2002

It wants employers to be forced to carry out pay audits to identify areas of discrimination, and act to close the pay gap, equivalent to 18%.

Julie Mellor, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, will tell the TUC conference on Tuesday that the pay gap will not close until women's workplace contribution is fully appreciated.

Sore points

Amicus's call comes at a stormy conference in Blackpool which has seen union leaders demand the repeal of union laws introduced by the Conservatives.

It also comes against a backdrop of growing industrial unrest.

A special conference of the Fire Brigades' Union on Thursday is expected to vote in favour of a strike by members.

And thousands of rail workers will be balloted on industrial action this week, because of fears that a firefighters' strike would hit rail safety.

Union chiefs have also barracked Prime Minister Tony Blair over plans for a military strike against Iraq, declaring "unambiguous opposition" to unilateral action.

In a speech to the conference on Tuesday Mr Blair is set to argue the case for action against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Slow progress

Amicus said it would take its equal pay campaign to companies, pledging a demonstration outside the annual conference of the employers' organisation, the CBI, in Manchester in November.

"If the CBI are opposed to equal pay audits surely this means they are opposed to equal pay and in favour of discrimination," Amicus general secretary Roger Lyons said.

Women in London are believed to be the worst affected by the pay gap, earning 21.8% less than men, research quoted by Reuters news agency said.

The gap is smallest in Wales, where women earn 12.3% less than men.

While the pay difference was greater before 1970s equal pay legislation, with a female worker in 1961 earning 60p for every 1 earned by a male colleague, the gap has hardly closed in the last five years.


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See also:

10 Sep 02 | Politics
03 Sep 02 | Politics
08 Sep 02 | Politics
25 Aug 02 | Business
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