This year’s international women’s day sees IMPACT active in a growing number of campaigns on issues that matter to women at work and in their communities.
The union is calling for new laws to require employers to reveal the gender pay gap in their organisations. IMPACT official Geraldine O’Brien recently wrote to the Tánaiste on the matter after it was reported that the country’s gender pay gap now stood at nearly 15%.
Geraldine acknowledged the Programme for Government commitment to “take measures to reduce the gender pay gap,” including by requiring companies with more than 50 staff to undertake wage surveys. But she said this was “not sufficiently ambitious” given the scale of the challenge.
IMPACT says that requiring employers to reveal their record would increase the incentive to address the gender pay gap. Geraldine said the union was calling on the Government to take decisive action on this important issue.
The pay gap means that the union’s participation in ICTU’s campaign for the living wage, which calls for a substantial increase in the national minimum wage, is also of specific interest to women. The minimum wage is currently set at €9.25 an hour, while the living wage has been estimated at €11.50. Three-quarters of minimum wage earners are female.
The union’s recent organising campaigns in the education sector have led to improved earnings for thousands of women, particularly special needs assistants. The successful campaign for the reestablishment of the health service job evaluation scheme also brings the prospect of increased earnings for many women in the sector.
Our new campaign for the professionalisation of the early education sector will also have a disproportionate impact on women, as 97% of staff in this area are female. Right now, average wages in the sector are just €10.27 an hour, with a €1 premium for graduates.
The union is calling for well-funded, properly resourced early education services, which would improve the lives of tens of thousands of women as the paucity of affordable childcare contributes to inequality in the wider Irish workplace.
Meanwhile, IMPACT’s innovative INSPIRE training programme took place at a special event in Dublin last November. The programme, designed to prepare and encourage women in IMPACT to run for election to branch, divisional and national committees, attracted some 40 activists from across the country.
The union developed this programme in response to the relatively low participation of women in many of the union’s local and national committees. While 75% of IMPACT members are female, women account for just 22% of members of the union’s central executive committee.
Women make up a similar proportion of industrial staff, while only one of the union’s eight most senior staff members is female.