I’ve already blogged on this, but I’m so angry that I’m going to do it again. Sheffield city council has decided to cut the pay of many of the lowest paid workers in the name of gender equality– amongst these are such traditionally female occupations as nursery workers and special education assistants, though also some traditionally male jobs. The BBC story focuses on a special education worker who is having her pay cut from 17,000 to 13,000 pounds. Apparently there are many cases like this.
I think I hesitated to say very much yesterday because I didn’t know all the details of the council’s reasoning. But on further reflection I decided I didn’t need to know more. According to the BBC story linked to, the council’s explanation is that they grouped jobs into categories and then tried to equalise within categories. I initially thought to myself that I couldn’t say very much because I didn’t know the details of these categories. But that’s just wrong, because:
(1) If you’re reducing the pay of some of the lowest paid in the name of fairness, something has REALLY gone wrong. (So maybe those categories need re-thinking.)
(2) If you’re reducing the pay of some of the lowest paid traditionally female jobs in the name of gender equity, something has REALLY gone wrong. (So maybe those categories need re-thinking.)
Today I got a further explanation in response to my letter of complaint:
Currently we have a situation where there are two groups of Nursery / School staff.
1. Those who work term time, and get paid a reduced salary to reflect the weeks they do not work.
2. Those who work term time, but get full time pay regardless of the weeks they don’t work.
This is the key issue that is having an impact on the pay of nursery workers. It is not acceptable to have people working side by side who get paid more for doing the same work.
I can certainly appreciate that the current system is unfair. HOWEVER we’re talking about a situation in which currently some people doing absolutely vital and extremely difficult work for 17,000 pounds and other people are doing the same absolutely vital and extremely difficult work for even less. Both of these groups are seriously underpaid. Justice is NOT served by reducing the pay of the somewhat less underpaid to the level of the even more underpaid.
Now– why do I keep blogging about this here, aside from the reasons given above? Because this is being justified in the name of gender equality, and so in the name of feminism. 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 that includes cutting the pay of nursery workers.
I urge you to complain here, and to spread the word on your own blogs if you have them. This isn’t fairness, and it isn’t feminism.