Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Harriet pledges to be equal pay champion


Harriet Harman pledges that as deputy leader she would be government equal pay champion for the economy as a whole, public, private and voluntary sectors.

There is a looming crisis in the public sector, in particular, in Local Government and the NHS, with a major problem of equal pay cases. In Local Government, tribunal actions are successfully challenging collective agreements which have not given full equal pay for work of equal value, and requiring back pay of millions. That looming crisis:


  • Threatens jobs - to pay back pay, councils have to cut work-force.

  • Threatens services, because of job cuts.

  • Threatens prospects of building new council homes - councils having to
    sell land to pay back pay.

  • Threatens instability - cases judged individually. Councils can’t predict what they will be able to spend or pay in the future.

  • Divisive – with men facing pay cuts by councils struggling to pay back pay to women.

  • Inhibits Unions from concluding collective agreements because they are joined
    as respondents to equal pay cases, as they were party to collective agreements
    which are judged to have discriminated.

  • Threatens union finances – Unions are party to collective agreements and are therefore liable if they are declared unlawful by a court or tribunal.

Local Government Employers have estimated back pay by region:


  • Scotland - £560M

  • North East - £300M

  • Yorkshire & Humberside - £371M

  • London - £167M

  • North West - £740m

  • West Midlands - £928m

  • East Midlands - £83M

  • Wales - £300m

  • East of England - £18m

  • South West - £100m

  • South East - £35m


Other facts and figures:


  • 50,000 claims in Local Government alone.

  • Fewer than 50% of councils in England and Wales have met their deadline to introduce new pay structures based on equal pay for work of equal value.

  • Cumbria has said that local services may have to be cut to implement new pay structures.

  • The total back pay for women is estimated to be at least £3bn.

  • Legal costs are already huge. Barristers have been instructed by Councils, Government departments, Unions and individual claimants. The biggest legal costs will be where councils are forced to fight expensive appeals. In the case of one council alone, additional legal costs for the court of appeal are estimated to be £500,000.


Harriet Harman will pledge that as deputy leader she would give leadership from the top of government to bring together those government departments affected:



  • Treasury

  • DCLG

  • Health

  • DfES

  • MoD

  • Local government employers

  • Trade unions


This will be to agree an approach which will provide justice to the women in a context of sustainable delivery of public services and public sector employment.


That leadership would have credibility coming from someone with a long commitment to and track record on equal pay. And who will be able to give a lead on the legal process.

Harriet Harman is a longstanding champion on equal pay. She was legal advisor to the 21-week successful equal pay strike in the 1970s, Trico in west London. She acted on behalf of women in early equal pay and sex discrimination cases when National Council for Civil Liberties legal officer.


Harriet has argued that equal pay is important not just for fairness and as a matter of principle but also because:


  • Equal pay is important to end child poverty.

  • Equal pay is important to help end unequal division of labour in the home which sees men having to work harder and see less of children and sees women lose out in their work.


Harriet Harman is a strong supporter of equal pay. She has argued for:


  • A target date to end unequal pay.

  • Compulsory pay audits for private as well as public sector. We can't end
    discrimination unless we can see it.

  • All jobs to be available part-time to help crack the full time/part-time pay

Harriet Harman is a strong supporter of good local public services:


  • Childcare.

  • Now calling for major expansion of youth services.

  • Housing - important in her constituency and a key pledge on her Priorities Card.


Harriet Harman is a strong supporter of Trade Union organisation, which:


  • Helps protect people at work in face of unreasonable employers.

  • Helps fight for better pay and conditions, for example, health & safety and pensions.

Instead of another round of commissions, we need a tough round of negotiations to ensure that the right resources go to the right places.


Additionally, Harriet has proposed:


  • We should change the law to give a clear right to allow for class actions.

  • Mandatory equal pay audits in the public sector (as well as the private sector) to ensure equal pay.

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