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Centre for Global Labour Research (CGLR) Colloquium - Equality Duties: Widening the Bargaining Agenda?

Starts: 12 June 2008

The Centre for Global Labour Research (CGLR)/ the Wales TUC/ Unions 21

Room F46, Aberconway Building,

12 June 2008, 1.00 - 5.00pm.

In the past few years we have seen a fundamental change in the structure of equality law in the UK, with positive duties being placed on public service employers to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. Previously the law gave rights to individuals not to suffer discrimination and afforded individual means of redress. The change targets the employer, the stronger party to the employment relationship, and requires action to be taken to foster equality for three of the current equality strands, race, gender and disability. The forthcoming Equality Act may extend this principle to the other strands of religion and belief, sexual orientation and age. In the longer term, these duties may be diffused further and be imposed also on private sector employers.

The purpose of this colloquium was to review the new law and draw out its implications for trade unions – key mediating agents that have played a central role in giving effect to equality law and ensuring it generates real change in workplace practice. The event was jointly hosted by Cardiff University’s Centre for Global Labour Research (CGLR), Unions 21 and the Wales TUC. Approximately forty people attended, drawn mainly from public service unions in South Wales.

The colloquium was chaired by Sue Ferns, chair of Unions 21, and fell into two parts. In the first session, barrister Tess Gill outlined the equality duties in the three spheres of race, gender and disability and described their associated enforcement mechanisms and some of the relevant case law. Zaffir Hakim of the Scottish TUC and Thomas Malaffy and Jonathan Swallow of Unison Northern Ireland then gave practical examples of how the duties are being used to lever positive change in public service organizations.

In the second session, the focus was on equality bargaining and particularly on union negotiation for equal pay. The gender equality duty imposes pressure on public service organizations to audit their pay systems in order to identify and eliminate discrimination and the aim of the session was to examine progress in union bargaining on equal pay. Edmund Heery of Cardiff University, summarised academic work on equality bargaining, including research on collective bargaining on equal pay carried out at Cardiff. Jane Thompson of the University and College Union and Bronwyn McKenna of Unison then outlined their respective union strategies for closing the pay gap between men and women in UK public services.

Full details of the programme and speakers and copies of presentations are available from the 'Event Resources' section below:

Edmund Heery 

Centre for Global Labour Research (CGLR) 

Cardiff University


Other information

Open To: Public