It’s been FIFTY YEARS since the sewing machinists at the Ford plant in Dagenham took action to challenge their unequal pay compared to the spray painters and paved the way for the first equal pay legislation.
That’s half a century in which employers have had the opportunity to do something about it but failed to do so.
Hardly surprising then that women have decided enough is enough.
The Next Equal Pay Claim is made up of women from Next stores all over the UK who are joining together to challenge the way the retailer values their work compared to how it values the work in its warehouses.
Next pays its sales assistants the least the law allows them to pay (minimum wage/hour) whereas it pays its warehouse staff considerably more. In addition warehouse staff benefits are much better.
That is because when it comes to valuing the work people do, those jobs, where women are predominant, pay less than jobs traditionally dominated by men. That is not a coincidence. That is not based on women being concentrated in easier jobs than men. Different jobs, yes. Less demanding, no.
The Next store staff are over 80% women demonstrating that gender segregation in this particular retailer is alive and well. Of course, women now work in the warehouse too – although the warehouse staff remain predominantly male. But that doesn’t change the fact that the shop work still suffers from being undervalued because it is traditionally (and still) ‘women’s work’.
The Next sales assistants are not arguing that being a warehouse operative is not a demanding job and deserves to be paid well and properly. They are simply arguing that their work, when viewed fairly, is just as demanding.
Unequal pay doesn’t just impact on women, it impacts on their families too. So fighting for equal pay is everyone’s business, women and men.