8 Mar 2012

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions said today that the last decade had seen "no discernible progress" towards addressing the gender pay gap and that inequality remains "a significant factor in the working lives of women."

Congress Assistant General Secretary Sally Anne Kinahan said recent reports from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Commission confirmed that genuine pay and workplace equality had still to be realised.

"On the occasion of International Women's Day it is important we recognise that significant obstacles remain for women in the workplace. We should also acknowledge that the evidence from the ITUC is that women in trade unions are better protected in this crisis and enjoy better conditions than women in non-union sectors," she said.

The ITUC report found that there had been little progress in closing the gender pay gap in the last 10 years, while the EU Commission survey found that women in Ireland earn 17% less than men and that twice as many men as women earned over €50,000 a year.

Ms Kinahan said the evidence was that "women in Ireland are more likely than men to work in low paid and precarious work, which was confirmed by University of Limerick research presented to the Congress Women's Conference that took place in Belfast last week."

She said the study showed that the majority of workers covered by Joint Labour Committees are female and it concluded that the payment of Sunday premiums, shift allowances and overtime to JLC workers was not a major burden on employers, in general.

"That conference was addressed by President Higgins who pointed out to delegates that it is not only women, but society as a whole that suffers from exclusion and inequality."

Ms Kinahan said a recent agreement between employers and unions in the contract cleaning industry, represented a "big step forward in ensuring basic minimum standards for workers in traditionally low paid sectors."

The national agreement was concluded recently between SIPTU, the Irish Contract Cleaning Association (ICCA), and employer's body IBEC and restores rates of pay and other associated conditions of employment which existed under the previous Employment Regulation Order.