TUC: Equality commission faces bleak future but women declare fight back

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By John Millington

IT is fair to say that all working people are feeling the effects of the recession.

But as with any assault, particularly one which seeks to re-distribute wealth from workers to bosses, different sections of the working class are feeling different aspects of the austerity drive.

Women are being hit in every way that everyone else is by the poison mixture of recession, cuts and unemployment.

However the specific nature of cuts, to women’s services and to equalities infrastructure is acting as double punishment for women and having a knock on effect.

At a packed TUC fringe, women trade unionists laid bare the facts about how cuts to the EHRC are denying women access to a vital service.

The ECHR provides a range of services under a statutory remit to “promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine “protected” grounds – age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”

Needless to say a 30 percent budget cut being promoted by the government this year alone on the back of swingeing cuts last year, will have a crippling effect on it’s ability to function.

Speaking to activists at the TUC congress, PCS vice president Sue Bond explained that there were now only 11 specialist lawyers at the commission covering the whole of the UK as part of massive staff cut backs.

In a cruel irony most of the ethnic minority and disabled staff at the commission will be forced out.

And to add insult to injury, labour rights have been practically extinguished for the workers who have to pick up the pieces and the commission running on a shoestring budget.

“People will be advising people on human rights without having the human right to join a union,” Ms Bond told her trade union audience.

Despite a decision on the proposals due on October 10th, women activists believe all is not lost

Tireless campaigner Doreen Lawrence has launched a new post card campaign in conjunction with the Unite and PCS to pressure the government to change course.

The campaign calls on the new chairperson of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Baroness Margaret Prosser – a former trades union activist – to rethink proposals to axe frontline staff that advise victims of discrimination, and to consult trades unions and stakeholders.

6,000 postcards will be distributed to union activists from around Britain with hopes that the initiative will put pressure on the board commissioners to reverse budget cuts in October.

And with the first woman general secretary and president double act leading the trade union movement, ministers will struggle to brush the issue under the carpet.


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