Our thanks to the estimable Nigel for this. He writes:
Of course this sort of thing swept through local authorities a couple of decades ago. The general result was a fall in pay for the jobs that were outdoors, briefly causing a recruitment problem until the huge influx of migrants filled the vacancies. No doubt the supermarket chains will struggle on with cases but will find it difficult to articulate the obvious, that heavier work requires bigger people, when officially there are no sex differences. I presume in the meantime they will be accelerating the use of self-service options, leading to a reduction in comfortable indoors jobs for women who like to do light “work” whilst sitting on their backsides. I dare say soon we’ll soon be hearing all sorts of things from the Fawcett Society about women being the main employee casualties in the retail sector.
More men need to be encouraged to use the equality legislation to challenge when they have to move the heavy stuff or cover unsociable shifts, for the same pay as women who won’t do those things.
I should perhaps offer my own thoughts, as someone who first encountered warehouse workers (virtually all of them men) when I started with Beecham as a graduate trainee in 1979, at the Brylcreem factory in Maidenhead, Berks. They were a fine body of people, very hard-working. The 10 years that followed were the happiest of my working life, and the final three years were spent as the Chief Buyer, in which position I put on several stones in weight from frequent excellent lunches. Later in my career I was a senior procurement executive with Exel Logistics, and came to have the utmost respect for warehouse workers.
The notion that there is some form of equal “value” in warehouse jobs and store checkout jobs is ideologically-driven BS. Whenever I can, I checkout my goods in stores, and do it in half the time the checkout operators (virtually all of them women) manage. I never had any training, in part because a five-year-old child could do what checkout operators do.
If female checkout operators want the higher rates of pay that come with warehouse jobs – the differential being down to supply and demand – then they will have to accept some or many of the following, which of course they won’t, preferring to remain in their non-jobs and whining “It’s not fair!”:
- full-time positions rather than part-time
- unsocial hours including night shifts
- physically demanding work
- the need to operate very complex equipment (e.g. some specifications of fork-lift trucks), which could be lethal if operated inadequately
- extreme seasonal temperature variations
- Cold conditions in warehouses for chilled and frozen goods
- longer commutes than for most store checkout jobs
It is to be hoped that the supermarkets eventually win this insane battle. But how many checkout operators will there be by then? Greedy women and greedy lawyers are driving female unemployment.
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