Rosie the Riveter. Photo: Wikipedia
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More female plumbers, but they suffer worst pay gap

Female tradespeople lose out.

A survey published last week charting the rise in the number of female tradespeople was celebrated as a triumph for gender equality. Sadly the cheers may have been raised too soon, a new study shows.

According to new research conducted by Labour into gender pay gaps across sectors, which the Staggers can reveal exclusively, skilled trades are the worst industries for pay differences between men and women.

Female plumbers, electricians and carpenters earn on average a shocking 30 per cent less than their male colleagues.  Manufacturing and processing operatives rank second worst, with an average 22 per cent pay gap.

The statistics come as a blow, after a 10,000-person survey by IronmongeryDirect published last week revealed that almost 6 per cent of tradespeople were now women. 

Puns about the rise of "white van woman" aside, the growth in the number of female plasterers, builders and other skilled trades roles was seen as a boon for gender equality.

One positive finding in Labour's research, which otherwise depicted a bleak landscape for equal pay, was around part-time work. It found that the gender pay gap for those in part-time work saw women come out on top in almost every sector. 

Depressingly, the one area in which women still lag behind men in part-time work, however, is in the highest paid jobs. Female managers, directors and senior officials earn almost 15 per cent less than their male equivalents.

It is a dispiriting statistic, particularly since women who choose to work part-time in these occupations often do so to balance family commitments, including caring for elderly relatives and child care. It is perhaps indicative of why so many high-flying women say their careers never recover after they have children.

It is also worth pointing out that industries in which the pay gap is smaller between the sexes are also the industries in which women dominate the work force and pay is lower than the national average. 

Women working as nursing assistants and beauticians, for example, face a smaller pay gap at 6.5 per cent, but women comprise 82 per cent of the workforce, and the salary is more than 35 per cent lower the national average.

Labour's shadow minister for women and equalities Gloria de Piero told me last week of a women she had just met who had won a employment tribunal after suffering unequal pay. The woman had juggled credit card debt, baliff letters, sleepless nights and all because she had been ripped off with a lower wage because of her sex.

It hammers home the unfairness of unequal pay, which about simple justice, rather than men versus women. De Piero promised that a Labour government would make pay equality a priority.

She added: "Forty four years since Labour's Barbara Castle passed the Equal Pay Act and we're still talking about how we get equal pay. At whatever level, whether we work part time or full time, whether it's male dominated or a sector where women make up most of the workforce - women lose out. And it's getting worse under this Government. Progress on closing the gap has stalled under the Tories and Lib Dems meaning women are missing out on £170 extra a year."

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.


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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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