Letters: Hidden pay gap for City women

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, May 7th, 2013

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While new statistics on pay inequality between men and women in financial services highlight a serious problem, the focus on basic pay rather than bonuses downplays the true scale of the problem (“Women in financial services ‘earning 20 per cent less than men’ ”, 2 May).

Bonuses in the City are not, as they are for the rest of us, a small extra sum to help with the Christmas shopping. Rather they often make up the majority of an individual’s annual pay. The last in-depth research on pay in financial services which included bonuses was the Equality and Human Rights Commision  inquiry in 2010, demonstrating that women’s bonuses were up to 60 per cent lower than those of men in comparable jobs.

Serious gender inequality exists in the City, and a lack of transparency is one major obstacle to tackling it. When female City employees come to me, they have normally experienced more overt forms of discrimination. More often than not we only discover they have been paid less than their male counterparts when we obtain access to pay information during the course of litigation. While disclosure of this information is often contested, when it does come to light, the pay disparity is often a six or even seven figure sum. Women simply do not have an adequate means of finding out what their male peers are paid, and since these cases invariably settle confidentially, the facts are never made public.

Equally important is changing the culture within the City. It’s a competitive and sometimes aggressive environment, and many women do not consider it safe to rock the boat by questioning pay decisions.

Gender inequality in the City must end, but the Government must do more to make companies more transparent on pay, and must take bonuses into account.

Samantha Mangwana, Principal Lawyer, (Partner), Employment, Slater & Gordon (UK) LLP, London WC2

Europe has to work together  on migration

Unsustainable immigration is not only a British problem.Destabilising immigration is a European problem; indeed it is a global problem.

Ukip’s demands that we should leave the EU will not solve the problem. Our fellow Europeans in Spain and Italy are suffering tidal waves of illegal economic immigrants and asylum seekers from North Africa. Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and the Balkan nations have refugees pouring into their countries from a war-stricken Middle East.

It is only our membership of the EU that has defended the UK from additional waves of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Commonwealth nations. These are desperate people who are trying to escape from the conflicts, poverty and catastrophic environmental changes in their homelands.

Britain needs to remain inside the EU and work with our fellow member countries to find solutions to the conditions that create destabilising migrations within and into the EU. Ukip and their kind target people to vilify and establishments to blame. Real politicians co-operate with their neighbours to find solutions to shared problems.

Martin Deighton, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Ukip’s appeal to more than disaffected Tories is easily explained. It was Labour that imported cheap labour with the aim of driving down unskilled wages.

The mainstream parties won’t acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Either curtail immigration, in which case the market will automatically raise the minimum wage, or let business decide how many to let in.

Curtailing unskilled immigration from outside the EU will not be sufficient to achieve a living wage. It will also require curtailing immigration from within an ever-expanding EU. But an end to importing cheap labour has a cost. There will be a transfer of purchasing power from the “haves” to the “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas become more costly. This is a small price to pay for anyone concerned about national cohesiveness.

Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Ukip’s policy on immigration appeals to people who have a primitive instinct which produces a dislike, a fear, of strangers, of those who have different beliefs or a different language, or who look different from themselves.

It is the instinct which caused the persecution of the Native Americans, of the aborigines of Australia, and of the Jews across the world for centuries, among other atrocities. It is the instinct which accounts for animals attacking members of their own species which appear different through deformity or whatever reason.

Ukip may have loosened the cork in the bottle holding the genie. We all too easily forget that human beings are animals.

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Safe factories for Bangladesh

In his 2 May article on the terrible building collapse in Bangladesh, Andrew Buncombe writes: “EU officials have said they are considering action including changes to Bangladesh’s duty-free and quota-free access to the giant EU market to persuade officials to adopt a more responsible management of the nation’s garment industry.”

Punitive actions such as that may or may not get the desired result, but they will certainly hurt many families dependent on a wage-earner in the garment industry. Instead, I would like to see the UK and the EU make it very clear to the government of Bangladesh that such a penalty is quite possible if they do not accept an outside audit of the government agencies in Bangladesh that are involved in workplace safety – because clearly those agencies are inept or corrupt, or both.  

The UK could select representatives from our own government agencies involved in workplace safety, since they obviously know how to do their job, given their excellent track record. Such a mission would be of tremendous benefit to the people of Bangladesh, and it would be another positive foreign policy accomplishment for the UK, and at little cost.

Christian Haerle, London E11

Comprehensive schools do work

Where do people like James Paton from Billericay (letter, 25 April) get their ideas about our education system? Certainly not from any consideration of the facts.

To put Mr Paton’s mind at rest, the UK’s education system is 2nd out of the 50 most developed countries in the world for the percentage of school students who progress to university (see The Learning Curve database commissioned from the Economist Intelligence Unit by the Financial Times).

As in South Korea, which just beats us, and all those countries which come even close to our performance, this is largely achieved in comprehensive schools, rather than in selective ones, such as grammar schools.

The even better news for Mr Paton is that, once at university, even at the very best of them, more than 20 per cent of state-educated students achieve first-class degrees, against only 18 per cent of those who have enjoyed all the advantages of the private sector (see studies completed by Bristol University and among Russell group and 1994 Group universities).

I hope these facts help to dispel Mr Paton’s belief that “state comprehensives are failing their brightest pupils” or that there is any need to return to “academic streaming”. Comprehensive schools here, and in the rest of the world, are out-performing the old selective systems hands-down.

Chris Dunne, Headteacher, London E14

The point about those fritillaries

Poor old Michael McCarthy must be wishing he had never written about those damned fritillaries.

The whole point of those ancient hay meadows that he wrote about is not just that they support wild fritillaries, but that they are the last vestiges of a rich and varied flora in an otherwise urban and agricultural desert. They support a wide variety of plants, which in turn are host to an equally varied fauna  which has remained unspoilt  for hundreds if not thousands  of years. 

A few fritillaries in the odd garden, as reported by your correspondents in response to McCarthy’s article, are of little consequence by comparison.

Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France

Rise of the ‘No to everything’ party

The county council elections proved to be a shambles, with about 25 per cent of the electorate showing themselves to be just as irresponsible as “the Clowns” themselves; more by luck than judgement the Clowns did not get control of any county, so we were spared farce of a county controlled by people with no programme other than to say no to everything.

We can only hope that when the European elections arrive the electorate will a bit more grown up, but I am not holding my breath.

D Sawtell, Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire

Nigel Farage seems to have political parties in a spin but there has been no serious examination of his policies, like the abandonment of the minimum wage, denial of climate change, and the end of trade unions. All we ever see is him holding a pint and ranting at his opponents. We get the politicians we deserve, so maybe we had Farage coming.

Steven Calrow, Liverpool

The Ukip vote on Thursday is a reminder that people disgruntled about the austere world we live in don’t always turn to the left. Above all however it is a vote from the saloon bar. Given that pubs are under serious threat, if Farage could focus his attention on saving them from closure he might do something useful at last.

Keith Flett, London N17

Our British bureaucracy

So, yes, let’s privatise parts of the Civil Service. What a cracking idea some 12-year-old MBA in Whitehall has come up with! However, let’s hope there will be real safeguards to ensure that the companies that take them over are British and remain British, unable to be taken over by some foreign company.

Otherwise, as with many of our utilities, Whitehall departments will be run by French, Chinese, Indian or North Korean companies. That really will give Ukip something to shout about.

Christopher R Bratt, Arnside, Cumbria

Foreign wine

The decision by the EU to ban the sale of the Croatian wine Prosek, on the ground that Prosek sounds too like Prosecco, put me in mind of the slack-jawed dimwits we call football pundits, who find nothing more amusing than their own determined inability to pronounce the names of foreign players.

Andrew Henderson, London SE26