UNISON, Orkney’s largest trade union is calling on Orkney Islands Council to address growing inequality between men and women’s pay.
UNISON have spoken out after two Council reports showed that OIC’s gender pay gap is worsening and is now the second largest in Scotland.
The Local Government Benchmarking report for 2017/18 puts OIC’s median gender pay gap at 10.9% compared to the Scottish median of 5.7% while the annual Equality and Mainstreaming Report uses the mean calculation and shows a gender pay gap for non-teaching staff at 16.7% as of March 2019.
In response to UNISON, council officials claim that unlike other local authorities Orkney does not contract out core services such as care, cleaning and catering, traditionally low paid female dominated areas and have blamed OIC’s poor performance on the inclusion of marine and towage services, a well-paid male dominated area where competition for staff with the private sector makes it necessary to keep wages high.
UNISON state that far from being an excuse this is precisely the problem.
The Council should support and encourage women to break into these male dominated well paid sectors such as Marine Services and increase wages for care workers and other female dominated jobs which although vital to our community are undervalued and low down on the Council’s wage priorities.
Sally George, Branch Secretary for UNISON Orkney Local Services Branch, said:
“We welcome the transparency of these reports but if the Orkney Islands Council is serious about closing the gender pay gap we need to see concrete measures brought in to rectify the situation.
“A major barrier preventing women from earning the same as their male colleagues across their life span is the gendered division of household labour, whereby caring for the sick and elderly, bringing up children and housework are considered women’s work.
“Women have more frequent career breaks, mostly to bring up children. This, in turn, has a negative impact on their careers. Research has found that the gender pay gap rises after the birth of a first child. Once a couple’s first child is aged 20, mothers on average earn nearly a third less than the fathers.
“A key factor being that women working part-time in motherhood often miss out on wage progression.
“62% of OIC non-teaching staff work part time, 82% of these part time workers are women.”
Sally George continued:
“In addition to this – Women’s inequality at work is a key contributor to women’s higher rates of poverty. They are twice as dependent on social security and ‘in work benefits’ than men and have therefore been disproportionately affected by ‘welfare reform’. These changes have put women at a greater risk of deeper and sustained poverty.
“We need to see greater value placed on jobs traditionally done by women and regulate pay structures to reduce and avoid inequalities. There should be more flexibility and understanding shown to women workers to enable them continue their careers while caring for children or disabled relatives.”