The unions opposed to Croke Park 2 have launched an Equality Audit of the proposals. It focuses on the impact of changes in working conditions – issues which have not received as much attention as the pay-cut elements of Croke Park 2. Which is unfortunate as this audit shows is that these proposed will have a profound impact on women in particular, and family carers in general. This is why Croke Park 2 has been rightly labelled as anti-women and anti-family.
The Equality Audit is written by Niall Crowley who, as former head of the Equality Authority, is particularly well-placed to assess the impact of Croke Park 2. His key points are:
- The provision for additional hours will have a higher impact on women – and for women and men with caring responsibilities. This could force women and carers out of the workforce.
- There will be a similar impact of the provision regarding work sharing which will be reduced. Women and carers will be disproportionately hit. Furthermore, there will be a negative impact on productivity.
- Flexi-time arrangements, again, will impact more negatively on women and carers. That the Croke Park 2 rules out any reference to family circumstance or the right to appeal to a third part means employees will have even fewer rights to maintain family-friendly working hours.
- There is a potential loss of productivity arising from the proposals as the loss of work-sharing opportunities and flex-time, combined with more working hours will reverse the gains that these working practices produced in the past.
The effect of all this will be a management driven by spurious and highly misleading balance-sheet considerations which will disguise the loss of productivity in the public sector, impose costs on to workers, drive many women and carers out of the workforce, and end up with a degraded public service. This is quite an achievement for a ‘deal’ that pretends to drive efficiencies.
What’s even more intriguing is the prospect that this deal could run afoul of the law. The Equality Audit states:
‘These proposals discriminate on the family status ground because they will disproportionately disadvantage men and women with caring responsibilities in the public sector . . .The Employment Equality Acts prohibit direct and indirect discrimination on a number of grounds including gender and family status. It could further be a matter for the European Commission to adjudicate on, given the provisions of the equal treatment Directives on the ground of gender.’
That Croke Park 2 would give rise to a legal challenge in the domestic courts and / or the EU Commission shows just how potentially discriminatory and unequal these proposals are.
The Equality Audit is a major work – and not only for the its assessment on the impact of Croke Park 2 proposals. In its forensic examination of the issues, it provides a wealth of data on the state of working life and, so, gives insight into more equitable strategies to improve productivity that is worker-centred. In short, if the goal is to improve efficiency, then you start by making work more amenable to the family and life circumstances of employees in the private and public sectors.
Instead, Croke Park 2 threatens to turn back the clock – all the way back when women were blocked from participating in the labour force. That could well be its lasting legacy if it is allowed to be implemented.
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Equality Audit: Assessment of Impact of the Labour Relation Commission (LRC) Proposals
This audit finds that additional working hours will disproportionately and negatively impact on women and will disadvantage both men and women with caring responsibilities. Furthermore, the diminishing commitment to flexibility for work life balance that is reflected in other parts of the LRC proposals suggest that flexibility will not be available to mitigate the impact of these measures. This in turn could serve as a push factor for people with caring responsibilities to leave the workforce with a disproportionate incident of this impact on women.
A reduction in access to and take up of work sharing arrangements will disproportionately and negatively impact on women and will disadvantage women and men with caring responsibilities and could act as push factor to leave the work force which disproportionately impacts on women. This is particularly true of the insistence in the proposals that work sharing patterns should not be less than 50% of full working hours. The available data identifies that women make up the vast bulk of those working less than 29 hours in a week. These effects can be particularly negative and have longer term consequences for women working in the health sector. The supportive culture and ethos surrounding the availability and take up of flexible working/work sharing arrangements that currently prevail will be damaged on foot of the LRC proposals and will diminish the productivity gains from the availability of these arrangements.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Flexible working arrangements are important in addressing work life conflict for women and men caring for young children. A reduction in the availability of or conditions for flexible working arrangements and changes in the core time bands will disproportionately and negatively impact on women and will disadvantage men and women with caring responsibilities. The absence of any reference to the need to take account of any possible impact on family circumstances or the right of appeal to a third-party adjudicator in these proposals is also of note. The loss of access to flexible working arrangements as staff progress into senior management positions will disproportionately and negatively impact on women also.
The audit concludes that the proposed changes to flexi time and work sharing, redeployment and increased hours at work hold the potential to have a disproportionate and negative impact on women employed in the public service. The audit concludes that these proposals discriminate on the gender ground because they will disproportionately disadvantage women in the public sector and will deepen gender inequality. The audit finds that these proposals also discriminate on the family status grounds because they will disproportionately disadvantage men and women with caring responsibilities in the public sector.
The audit finds that, based on the research available, flexible working /work sharing arrangements actually enhance productivity which is the stated objective of the LRC proposals and that no savings are identified if access to and conditions relating to these arrangements are diminished.
The audit further states that the potential impact of the LRC proposals must be mitigated if they are not to deepen inequality for women and to disadvantage men and women with caring responsibilities.