Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues

By Susan Corby; Geoff White | Go to book overview

5


Equal opportunities

Fair shares for all?

Susan Corby

This chapter covers equal opportunities on grounds of gender, race and disability. Inevitably, however, there is more emphasis on gender, because it has had a higher profile for a longer period of time in terms of research and practice. Because this chapter’s focus is employment, it does not cover the steps unions are taking to involve their female and ethnic minority members in union activity. (This is covered in chapter 10.)

There are two main arguments in this chapter. First, it is argued that the public services can be conceived of as a continuum as far as action on equality is concerned. At one end there is local government, which is generally held to be in the forefront, followed by the civil service. These have what Cockburn (1989) would call a long agenda on equal opportunities. Moving along the continuum, the National Health Service (NHS) has begun to devise equality measures, as has higher education. At the other end of the continuum are the uniformed services (armed forces, police, fire services) where there are well publicised instances of sexism and racism and which, to use Cockburn’s phrase, have a short agenda on equal opportunities (Cockburn 1989). In other words, it is misleading to bracket all the public services together. (See Figure 5.1).

The second main argument is that progress towards equality is threatened by actions affecting the public services generally: these include the shift in the rationale for equality, organisational restructuring, the pressure on costs, contracting out and the use of performance pay.

Background, 1920-80

In the early decades of the century, discrimination against women in the public services was considered legitimate. Thus when the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed a proviso was inserted to allow restrictions to be placed on the mode of admission of women in the civil service and their conditions of service. Treasury regulations of 1921 required women civil servants to be single or widowed and it was lawful to reserve to men particular appointments in the civil service which were based abroad (Fredman and Morris 1989). In the early 1920s a few local authorities tried

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Employee Relations in the Public Services: Themes and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures and Tables vii
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - From the New Right to New Labour 3
  • Part II - Context 27
  • 2 - The Economic and Financial Context 29
  • References 51
  • 3 - The Legal Context 53
  • Part III - Issues 71
  • 4 - The Remuneration of Public Servants 73
  • References 92
  • 5 - Equal Opportunities 95
  • 6 - Employment Flexibility 114
  • 7 - Tendering and Outsourcing 136
  • 8 - Quality Management 156
  • Part IV - Players 175
  • 9 - Personnel Managers 177
  • References 195
  • 10 - Trade Unions 199
  • References 221
  • Index 225
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