Council strikes blow for gender equality, cuts women’s pay by 25%

// 17 April 2009

Sheffield City Council has announced a salary restructuring as a result of the onerous duty of gender equality legislation. Apparently the unreasonable burden of having to pay the workers equally for doing similar jobs has caused them a great deal of trouble. When they looked into it they found – as so many do – that they weren’t. Solution? Cut the pay of your lowest worker, blame the lefties who made you do it.

The Labour government has forced us into this“, grumbles the Lib Dem deputy leader of the council, David Baker. Angela Smith, a councilor concerned about the way the process has been undertaken, says it’s ironic that a piece of legislation intended to tackle the pay gap between men and women has been used to justify cutting the pay of some of the most poorly paid people in the workforce.

The BBC interviewed Michelle Brindley. Michelle is a teaching assistant at a school for children with special educational needs. She used to earn £17,000. Soon she’ll be earning £14,000. She’s been in the job 25 years.

Sheffield council say to bring workers’ pay to parity by lifting them up to the same level rather than imposing 20-25% pay cuts would cost in the region of £2m. For comparison, that’s one third of one percent of their annual operating budget. They’re operating a budget deficit, of course, but who the hell isn’t operating a budget deficit these days?

Meanwhile, Michelle has taken a 20% pay cut. And she has to take a calculator around with her when she goes to the supermarket.

Jender at Feminist Philosophers sums it up nicely:

A gross injustice is being carried out in the name of feminism, and we MUST fight it. It is deeply offensive to call this feminist, and it is precisely the sort of thing that convinces people that feminists are elitists happy to sacrifice the pay of low-paid workers for some deeply confused notion of gender equality

***update: you can complain to Sheffield City Council here***

Hat tip to Jender @ Feminist Philosophers

Comments From You

Jen // Posted 18 April 2009 at 2:53 am

That is profoundly disgusting. Why not cut the wages of the highest earners?! I’m in Canada, but wondering what can be done. Any ideas?

Lynne Miles // Posted 18 April 2009 at 4:44 am

Oh dear I think I’m sleep deprived. I forgot to add the most important bit, which is that you can complain to Sheffield City council here. I’ll update the post as well. Thanks for the reminder!

CMK // Posted 18 April 2009 at 12:17 pm

I am fully in favour of equal pay, I am not in favour of automatically putting pay up to the highest rate in the name of equality! The majority are keeping the same rate or going up. The council is paying out £2million more to help achieve equality and that is a step in the right direction. I wonder what the bill would be to up everyone to the top rate?

If the pay system was wrong – and if it breaches equal pay legislation then it patently is – you create a new system and move everyone on to that scheme. Some people will be better off others will be less so, that’s life. I do not see any issue with that.

In this case it would appear that the lowest paid are being targeted presumably because they are the largest in number. That is understandable from a pure economic perspective (i.e. 100k people losing 5k each is worth more than 10 people losing 100k each), but clearly is wrong from pretty much any other viewpoint.

depresso // Posted 18 April 2009 at 12:46 pm

The teaching assistant is now earning about what I did when I worked as an assistant manager in a smallish shop. Guess who works harder and did more job-related training, and whose job is more valuable? Yeah, not me or mine. I sold soap and stuff, if you’re wondering.

Aberdeen city council are up to something not wholly disimilar too, I haven’t had a chance to find out more, but I believe that they want to give a lump sum to buy out the pay-parity increase, or something like that. No idea of the numbers but I’d bet my left kidney that it’ll come out worth less to the workers involved, who are mostly women.


Jender // Posted 18 April 2009 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for picking up on this! Since writing my post, I’ve had confirmation that it’s *very much* worth complaining- the council floating new proposals daily in response to complaints. So we really can have an impact on this.

Gregory // Posted 18 April 2009 at 10:01 pm

“Some people will be better off others will be less so, that’s life. I do not see any issue with that.”

That is probably because you don’t understand the basics of organized labor. “When you cheat my brother, you also steal from me”

So if somebody picks up a screw at a Detroit car plant, and does it for less than the rate, the plant closes, the sister plants close.

Ros // Posted 20 April 2009 at 11:18 am

It is depressing that councils are trying to do this. They have had many years to save up the money for the wages they have denied their employees through ILLEGALLY underpaying them. It is their fault they have to spend so much of their annual budget now.

My local council recently pledged to pay out to its underpayed staff due to the gender equality legislation (mainly women but men are benefitting too when they work in “female” jobs) and there was outcry from members of the public. Basically saying that those jobs weren’t deserving. One chap actually said that refuse collection was much harder than care work so should be paid higher. Personally I place more value on my elderly relatives being looked after than my bins being collected.

Gregory // Posted 20 April 2009 at 6:39 pm

Trade unionism is organized patriarchy in the UK.

The women just voice male perspectives. Without going on ad infinitum, Chris Keates is so patriarchal, she is so transparently so

also not good on para-professionals

What was needed was for women to go for the garbage hauling jobs, to get the money, then their ‘comrades’ would sympathize.

Aimee // Posted 20 April 2009 at 10:09 pm

On a slightly related note, I work for the council, and as you may or may not know, LOADS of people have lost of a lot of money due to pay cuts as a result of ‘job evaluation’, where we basically had to fill out a big long form detailing our dutues, responsibilities, etc. and our pay has been awarded ‘appropriately’. Now you can probably guess which jobs were considered ‘less worthy’ and thus received pay cuts.

The main thing that irritated me – and when I say irritated I mean F***ing infuriated – was that the appeals budget for this is £8 million! … which quite obviously could have been used to pay the deficit in the salaries of those people who lost out! Probably for a good few years! The pay cut was thus totally unnecessary and it makes me wonder if it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to undermine the lowest paid workers. Gah.

Gregory // Posted 21 April 2009 at 7:52 am

In blame free Britain, it is not that unusual to make provision to spend 500,000 to defend an issue of 5,000.

The problem in Britain, is a system designed to exclude the sensible. One can’t be a govt. Minister without a sense of the Khmer Rouge

And you can’t be a council leader, without a parking attendant mentality, it is a remarkable exercise in retro ‘carry on up’ the 1960s’

when Britain made jokes of Italian and Spanish local administrations.

Call me psychic if you must, but one look into Tony Blair’s eyes, told me that it ( your politics) was going to be like something out of the Omen.

Blair now has a sub-religious cult, and is giving the Pope lessons on how ‘to fix’ two thousand years of Christianity, and the future is belief as metaphor.

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