Socialist Party documents

Perspectives for Britain and the world 2009


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Women

We have a proud record of work amongst women, which has differentiated us from other groups in our intervention in this field.

We called from the start for a national demonstration organised by the trade unions to defend abortion rights.

Moreover, we stressed that not only should the present abortion rights be defended but they should be extended, which is now being taken up in the women's movement.

Working-class women do not have a real choice as to when or whether to have children because of economic factors that mean great weaknesses in social provision, childcare and access to abortions in the NHS.

When New Labour refused to allow further amendments to the Embryology and Fertility Bill in order to keep the Ulster Unionists on board, this proved our point that a purely parliamentary campaign would not work.

Then there is, as referred to above, the key issue of women earning a lot less on average than men and the gap in pay between women and men is increasing once more.

This is probably due to the fact that women are more concentrated in 'caring' jobs, which because they are seen as 'women's work' are automatically low paid.

Also, women still play the main role in caring for children and family members who are ill or disabled.

Taking time off to have children or care for a family makes it difficult to advance in a job or career.

Lack of decent affordable childcare means that many women work part-time, which always pays less. There is also blatant discrimination against pregnant women, of whom 30,000 a year lose their jobs. The single status deal in local government, which was supposed to address equal pay, has led to some female workers, as mentioned above, facing wage cuts to fund equal pay.

Workers in each council are expected to fight the battle on its own. Crucially, women made up 50% of trade union membership at the end of 2007. Seventy per cent of working-age women are in employment, while 5.1% are unemployed and 26% are economically inactive, that is students, disabled or caring for family.

Three quarters of all part-time jobs are filled by women and nearly half of part-time jobs are low paid and women work part-time.

This means they earn 40% less per hour than men working full-time. Moreover, one in five single pensioners lives below the poverty line and pensions are based on pay levels over the amount of years at work.

Women lose out on both counts. Attacks on lone parents, forcing them to look for work or face benefit reductions, also act against women.

Then there is the continued violence against women, experienced by one in four women. This includes young women experiencing violence from their boyfriends and there is a continuing lack of resources for refuges or alternative accommodation.

We have conducted a tremendous campaign on this issue in the past under the banner of the Campaign Against Domestic Violence.

To some extent, this was pushed into the background by other priorities but this issue remains of vital importance.

For us as a party, it is crucial to recruit and integrate women into the party by giving them a political voice and encouraging female comrades in particular to take up positions in the party.

We have a very good record at national level and in the composition of the Executive committee of the Socialist Party.


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