First, the straightforwardly good news. Moves are afoot to compel companies to address the gap between men’s and women’s earnings. Those of us old enough to remember the 70’s may also remember the fanfare which greeted equal pay legislation; sadly its promise has not been fulfilled. The current measure – first added to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill by the coalition government – will “cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in an article for The Times.
Then there’s the recognition of a national living wage, as opposed to a national minimum wage at the highest level in last week’s emergency budget. There are flaws in it, such as the fact that will apply only to those over 25, but it’s a start.
More controversially, much tougher conditions for calling strikes by unions representing key services such as health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy sectors are being proposed by government. In these important sectors, action will only be legal if 40 per cent of all members eligible to take part in the ballot vote in favour. There’s a debate to be had here about the extent to which crucial public services should be permitted – in extreme cases – to bring the country to a standstill, versus their right to protest about conditions of employment.
Whilst there are still many whingers about work, we should all remind ourselves that we are extremely lucky to live one of the world’s richest countries with a (largely) fine record in employment rights. I bet some of our Nepalese and Romanian families wish they were as fortunate.