Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TUC Women's Committee

Last week, I attended my second meeting of TUC Women's Committee. You'd hope this would be a gathering of women activists from various unions to organise solidarity with women workers in struggle and plan exciting campaigns for working women's rights. In practice, it is gathering of some activists and some full-time officers, who go through an agenda largely consisting of reports which we are invited to comment on to little apparent purpose. Despite that, it should still be possible to fight for the aforementioned solidarity and campaigns to get a look in, and even if comments criticising the government's latest wheeze don't go anywhere, I'm still glad that I am there (along with others) to make them. Some high- and lowlights:

Hearing about the struggle by women workers in the Antalya Free Trade Zone in Turkey.

Reviewing the recent TUC Congress. The equality debates got pushed to the end of the agenda, as per usual. And the only controversial issue all week was the General Council persuading the big unions to vote down a resolution from the Women's Conference on childcare. No, they are not willing to provide childcare that enables parents to attend fringe meetings. I suggested instead that we could have a creche during fringe meetings but not bother during Congress hours - then I could go to the interesting discussions and have some quality time with my children while Congress votes unanimously for inane resolutions and listens to that bloke from the CBI. Apparently, I was joking.

Being consulted by the government. Except they ask questions designed to get the responses they want, put a word limit on your reply, and give the TUC such a short time to reply that the response is written by an unelected official. We - the elected Women's Committee - get to comment on its afterwards. I expect the government would probably ignore what we would say anyway, but it would still be nice to actually say it.

So, too late, I commented on the government's consultation on the 'Priorities for the Ministers for Women'. The Ministers asked how they should support families, the TUC replied that low pay is a big factor. The MInisters asked for practical suggestions - Janine suggests (too late) that the TUC could have mentioned increasing the minimum wage, preferably by a significant amount. The Ministers ask how we can tackle violence against women and improve the way we deal with women who commit crime. The TUC gave some reasonable replies about violence against women, but omit to answer the second part. Janine suggests (too late) that we should raise the issues of deaths of women in custody, women who are in prison but shouldn't be (eg. for shoplifting, debt, etc), and, and POA General Secretary Brian Caton put it so neatly at a TUC fringe meeting last year , the fact that "90% of prisoners should be in the care of the health service rather than the prison service".

Planning next year's TUC Women's Conference. About which more another time.

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