DTI minister Patricia Hewitt has promised to keep pay audits voluntary in
the private sector.
Speaking at the Unions21 conference in London, the secretary of state for
trade and industry said there were already many statutory obligations on
employers and that adding to them was not the way forward.
Rather, she said, changes in corporate governance coming in with the
Information and Consultation Directive and changes to operating and financial
review laws will make things more transparent.
"Simply picking out equal pay audits is not the way forward," she
Hewitt also defended the Government’s desire to retain the opt-out to the
Working Time Directive, which allows people to work more than the EU maximum of
48 hours a week.
She said it was important that people have control of their working hours
and can change these according to their needs.
However, TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, also speaking at the
conference, was ‘staggered’ that the Government wanted to retain the opt-out.
"Three out of five people who work more than 40 hours a week want a
shorter week," he said.
"It doesn’t take a genius to see that union/government relations are
not at their best," Barber admitted, adding that the Government had
originally opposed the Information and Consultation Directive and has also
tried to block other EU innovations such as the Agency Workers Directive and
the introduction of corporate killing laws.
He said the Government should look beyond full employment as some jobs were
still badly paid, and it also needed to address the issues of childcare and the
choice of work patterns.
Hewitt agreed on this point. She said that with unemployment now at its
lowest point in 30 years, the Government must shift its focus from ‘more jobs’
to ‘better jobs’.
By Quentin Reade