Equality Body has Unequal Staffing

The Equality Commission was under fire last night for “not practising what it preaches” after confidential figures revealed it employs a significantly skewed number of Catholics and women. According to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act and published by the Belfast Telegraph today, the watchdog admits that Protestant and male employees are significantly under-represented in its workforce.

The figures have led to the organisation, whose role it is to promote religious and gender equality in all workplaces across Northern Ireland, being accused of “hypocrisy of the highest order”.

According to the figures, which were released to Castlereagh Borough councillor Charlie Tosh, the Equality Commission employed 140 people when monitored on January 1 this year.

Of that 140, just 45 were men (32%) while 95 were women (68%) – a massive difference of 36%. In a breakdown of the workforce’s religious beliefs, just 49 of the 140 employees were Protestant (35%) while 80 were Catholic (57%) and 11 “cannot be determined” (8%).

These figures do not take into account any changes in the workforce since January 1.

Mr Tosh, a DUP councillor, said he was particularly worried about the statistics as they mark a decrease in the percentage of Protestants employed and no change in the percentage of men employed on the year before.

This is in spite of assurances he was given by the commission last year that it was working to improve the situation, he said.

According to statistics released to Mr Tosh for the year beginning January 2005, the commission employed 129 people then. Of those, 41 were men making up 32% of the workforce and 88 were women (68%).

Of the 2005 figures, 50 were Protestant (39%), 73 were Catholic (56.5%) and six (4.5%) were non-determined. That marks a 4% drop in the number of Protestant employees in a year.

Mr Tosh said he was “appalled” by the figures. “This is a classic example of ‘do as I say but not as I do’,” he said. “I raised concerns about this last year and was told that the commission was doing everything in its power to even things up. But these latest figures show that things have only got worse,”

Mr Tosh said he was not speaking from a “religious or bigoted” viewpoint. “I would be raising this issue if the figures were the other way about. I would be saying the same thing if there were more men and Protestants in the commission than women and Catholics.”

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact the Commission for comment yesterday but there was no-one available.