Friday, June 23, 2006

T&G Union Women

In the latest issue of Together (the magazine for women in my own union the T&G) there were a couple of interesting reports.

Domestic Violence
A workplace support policy for victims of domestic violence was recently written into a Birmingham manufacturing company’s conditions of employment. A pledge is made “to sensitively support employees who are experiencing domestic violence and whose work may be affected through character changes, performance related issues, withdrawal from social grouping, an increase in absenteeism or timekeeping problems”.

It seems that women have started to use the initiative and some have stated that had this level of support been available in the workplace before then they would have used it then.

This reminds me of the Raise the Roof Campaign in Unison, which has similar views on workplace policies regarding domestic violence. What does strike me though is no matter how useful getting a policy through management it is equally as important to educate people around in the workplace around domestic violence. And training union members as well as stewards is vital as well. I know there were disagreements at Unison Women’s conference about the nature of policy implementation and training reps but it has to be done.

At the 2002 TUC Women's Conference, delegates completed a survey on domestic violence and 55 per cent stated that they, or someone they worked with, had experienced domestic violence. The TUC Women's Policy Officer, Rebecca “bureaucrat” Gill, stated that: "As a movement we recognise that it is our responsibility to work with employers and to work with our members to ensure that those who perpetrate domestic violence are not sheltered in our workplaces or organisations."

Domestic Violence is a workplace issue and therefore a trade union issue. In my opinion, more has to be done. And very little has been done so far.

Women and trade unionism in Ghana
There was a report from women active in the trade union movement in Ghana and how they are fighting against sexism. Adwoa Sakyi, gender officer of the General Agricultural Workers’ Union of Ghana, spoke about male resistance to women working outside of the home and the other was against women increasing their representation in the union.

Adwoa said: “Women said they wanted to work on the farms but the men would not let them. And the men said if they not let their wives work they would not be respected as husbands”. She also said that attitudes changed when the union organised joint role-play exercises followed by focus group discussions of men and women (both separately and together).

A piece by Ann Quesney (Abortion Rights Director) rounding up the work done by Abortion Rights in the past year, including the postcard campaign ‘would you turn the clock back on her rights’ (Are you listening at the back Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor?!)

Equal Pay
Two key calls from the T&G were vetoed by the employers’ representatives regarding the government’s Women and Work Commission report on equal pay. These were mandatory equal pay audits and legal rights for equality representatives. Diana Holland (T&G national organiser for women, race and equalities) declared “disappointment” at the outcome.

No surprise there then..!

But then according to Rebecca “bureaucrat” Gill there isn’t the political momentum to fight for equal pay. So, does that mean Rebecca, that this is also the position of the TUC? Can’t be arsed attitude?

….That old chant just springs to mind: “TUC get off your knees/organise a general strike”! (Catchy little number, don't you think, Rebecca?)