Jane Stewart Chair Unite National Women’s Committee

As women working on the frontline of manufacturing, Unites National Women’s Committee sees the real and devastating impact of the Government’s economic policy on our industries, our pay, and our communities.

Our starting point is that economic policy matters to women, it impacts on all aspects of our lives, it is essential we have a voice in framing economic policy.

We have the greatest challenges facing us, given the impact on the UK economy of:  Covid-19, our trading relationships post-Brexit, automation and digitalisation and the growth of global corporations who seem to believe they are exempt from contributing to our taxes.

It’s all too easy for remote investors to asset-strip companies, close down production and sell the land to the highest bidder, often for luxury housing rather than producing the goods that are the back bone of economic recovery.

This has had a devastating impact on women’s earnings.  We have been the primary victims of the drive to a low-pay, low-skill economy based on zero-hours contracts.

We urgently need to see support for collective bargaining, job security and a return to investing in our skills and pensions, underpinned by economic policy and labour market regulation.

Protecting our public services from privatisation;  fair and ethical trade with the Global South;  protecting workers’ rights;  social and environmental protections;  no hard border on the island of Ireland;  freedom of movement of people;  support for industrial development.

We also have the immediate and existential threat of climate change.  We need to deliver a green new deal that works for working people, one that does not leave women behind.

We urgently need to invest in a just transition that delivers quality green jobs, one that promotes co-operation and innovation, and one that benefits our communities.  Public ownership of energy production, distribution and supply is a critical part of this.

Our first national women’s combine held its first meeting online on Friday 16th June and over 50 industrial workplace women reps from across 18 different workplaces, 4 sectors came together with the shared aims to:

  • Increase women’s membership and activism across Unite.
  • Strengthen collective bargaining on women and equality.
  • Develop strategies to deliver greater participation of all Unite women.
  • Promote women in the roles of steward, senior steward, negotiators and workplace representatives.
  • Examine existing policies across these workplaces to ensure they are progressive for women members.
  • Identify existing and potential benchmarking agreements and policies.
  • Research any gender pay gaps within the identified companies, compare across the last five years. and put an action plan together to tackle any issues.
  • Build links of existing reps within these workplaces with high membership of women.

Common themes that face women across these industries included; cost of living crisis, working hours,  lack of real flexibility and women’s health & safety. Following this initial meeting, all those involved will receive a survey and individual follow up so Unite can understand more about the issues raised and how we can work together as a combine on shared solutions. Bringing together women leaders who can drive change and deliver for women across Unite is at the heart of the combine aims and we are determined to provide the organising resources to make this happen.


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