Equal Pay Day 2011

As you would expect from an organisation whose main aim was to campaign for Equal Pay for Equal Work for women teachers, there is a huge amount of material in the collection concerned with Equal Pay.  However, as so far in the blog I tend to have concentrated on all the material which I didn’t expect to find, I thought today was the perfect time to concentrate more on equal pay. 

The reason I chose today? Well, today is Equal Pay Day 2011 in the UK.  It’s an issue that I’ve seen being discussed a lot recently – from an article in Red magazine (see a truncated version here), a piece in the Guardian and in discussions I’ve had with friends. I’m sure a lot of this also relates to what I’ve been discussing with friends – attitudes to salaries here in the UK.  Most women I know, myself included, are very reticent about asking for pay increases and negotiating starting salaries.  Is this different for men? Would they feel less inhibited about asking for a raise, or negotiating a starting salary? I’m not sure but that is what the articles I’ve been reading seem to suggest.  Coupled with the conventions in the UK that it’s crude to talk about salary how do we even know what male counterparts are getting paid? Obviously in the public sector this is better given standard pay scales, maybe in the public sector it’s more to do with the glass ceiling. 

Looking back at the records in the NUWT collection the range of inequalities experience by women teachers was huge – covering not just salary, but pension contributions, hours of work, working conditions, benefits and the marriage bar – to name but a few. The NUWT campaigned massively on this issue on a national level but also on a local level.

I thought I’d share this letter to the Editor of the Yorkshire Observer I came across in a folder of correspondence between Headquarters and the Bradford branch of the NUWT.  Miss E. Snowden was the Honorary Secretary of the Bradford branch and a very active member in the campaign for equal pay.  She talks about working five days for four-fifths of the salary of a man in the same job.

From NUWT Collection, ref no UWT/D/225/1 ©Institute of Education

“I am now free to do a good days work for four-fifths of the pay which a man receives for precisely the same work. More over I have qualified for my work in the same universities as my male colleagues. … I want to be compelled to be paid equal pay for my equal work.”

This is the same situation many women are still fighting against – the reason the 4th November is this year’s UK equal pay day is that taking into account pay differentials between men and women, this means that after the 4th November women essentially work for free for the rest of the year.  I understand that this covers a huge variety of occupations and that some industries are better than others, the public sector on the whole is better than the private etc, but it’s still shocking that over 40 years after the Equal Pay Act this is even still an issue!


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