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TUC Women's Conference 2022: Usdaw tackles the impact of automation and the failures of flexible working

Date: 09 March 2022 This week Usdaw delegates will be participating with hundreds of other trade union activists in the online TUC Women’s Conference, 9-11 March, to promote equality and fight discrimination. This year Usdaw is raising concerns about the impact of automation on women’s work and how flexible working is failing working women.
Ruth Cross - Usdaw Equalities Officer says: “Despite almost universal support for flexible working among workers the majority of low-paid working women continue to be denied access to genuine two-way flexibility in the labour market. In the retail sector flexibility can be wholly employer centred. It has become a byword for casualisation and shorthand for job insecurity, low hours contracts, short notice changes to hours and low pay. Genuine two-way flexible working, including getting hours of work that fit around family life, is a key feature of decent work.
“New technology continues to transform the way we shop and the pandemic accelerated the trend towards automation. Retail work has historically been gendered and, despite some progress, the sector remains highly segregated. Automation further exacerbates women’s inequality if it proceeds unchecked. While technology can work in women workers favour, without union action both the quantity and quality of women’s work in retail will deteriorate. The role of unions is crucial in mitigating the negative impacts of technological advances and women’s equality.”
Usdaw’s propositions to the Women’s Conference call for the TUC to:
  • Continue highlighting the unequal impact of automation on women’s jobs, incomes and lives, along with supporting union campaigns for decent work.
  • Call for a legal duty requiring all employers to conduct and publish Equality Impact Assessments and a legal right to collective consultation on the introduction of new technologies at work.
  • Campaign for a family friendly framework of rights that reflects the reality of women’s working lives and the labour market in the 21st century.
  • Ensure the experiences and needs of low paid working women continue to inform TUC campaigning, political and collective bargaining priorities.
  • Support affiliated trade unions in their attempts to resist casualisation and win secure, well paid and decent work for all working women. 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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