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Equal Pay Rights and Legal Mobilisation: A Tricky Strategy for Trade Unions in Great-Britain? (1960-2010)

Cécile Guillaume
University of Roehampton
Cécile Guillaume
University of Roehampton

In the UK, public sector unions have been at the forefront of campaigns for equal pay for the last 50 years, despite enduring strategies of restructuring, privatization and cuts in the public sector. Depending on periods, unions have used various tactics to promote women’s rights and pay equity. Building on a multi-method approach combining a variety of techniques (interviews with lawyers, experts and UNISON activists; union archives; legal case study data and secondary academic research accumulation), we will describe the different strategies unions have chosen to defend their members’ interests, from labour-feminist coalition-building to collective bargaining, political lobbying and strategic litigation. More specifically we will question the use of legal mobilization, its efficiency and interactions with other union repertoires of action. To what extent and under which conditions have public sector unions turned to the courts to promote equal pay? What impact has mobilizing the law had on making rights a reality ? What were the impact of equal pay campaigns and litigation on the promotion of economic justice within the public sector? To understand the evolution and outcomes of equal pay battles in the public sector, we will examine the role of the economic and political environment (notably government led restructuring and “modernization” programs), the impact of the EU legislation, and the characteristics and strategies of the different actors involved (unions, employers, Equal Opportunity Commission, judiciary and lawyers).
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