Workers' self-defence starts with getting unionised at work. This section includes material on the trade union struggles and issues I am involved in and/or urge you to support!
- France - Women trade unionists have been concentrating on increasing women's involvement in the unions, and on campaigning against violence against women. At Gare du Nord railway station, African women cleaners are often sexually assaulted by male bosses. Some men say that it does not matter, that women are making it up, or that they 'have a chip on their shoulder'.
- Italy - There is very good legislation on women's rights - for example on maternity - but the economic and cultural situation means that women are still disadvantaged. Italy has the lowest rate of women's employment in Europe, and needs investment in public services and industries to create jobs for women. As the government cuts welfare services, it relies on women to act as unpaid carers.
- Belgium - In the Port of Antwerp, an agreement has been signed by the union and the employer regarding women's employment on the docks. this emphasises equal recruitment policies rather than quotas. But the employers need challenging to ensure that they abide by the agreement.
- Netherlands - Some men - even some union men - say that women who work on the docks are taking men's jobs. And they say that if you do a 'man's job' then you must go along with 'men's humour' ie. sexist banter. As a minority, women are abused, whether through 'jokes' or touching. The solution is not new laws but the enforcement of existing laws, but the Inspectorate is understaffed. Migrant women workers are taken on in jobs with only a few hours work, and then told that they must give sexual favours to get more work. Women are not confident to complain about abuse, so the union is using organisers from other countries to speak to women in their own language.
- UK - I reported on the ScotRail victory and ongoing fight to defend guards' jobs; the abuse of women cleaners; the impact of ticket office clsures and de-staffing of stations.
- Many countries - A recurring theme in reports from the various countries is that European Union legislation is useful, but that it needs to be monitored and implemented, with sanctions against companies that do not abdie by gender equality policies. Employers find ways around legislation, so legislation is not enough.
Jean-Louis Colson (on the right of the photo) from DG-MOVE - the European Commission's Directorate General on transport - outlined the Commission's work on women and transport, and the consultation it is currently running.
For the Commission, the main 'challenge' is that not enough women work in transport. Only 22% of transport workers are women, across all 28 EU member stations (the Commission's document states that "22% of women work in the transport sector" but this is incorrect; the statistic is as I give it here). It is even more unbalanced in certain transport sectors: road and rail workforces are only 14% women; air transport is a bit better, with 38% women. Jobs within transport are also unbalanced: in the rail industry, 60% of human resources staff are women, but only 3% of drivers.
Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Disabled People Against Cuts held a week of action to coincide with the Paralympic Games. During the week, DPAC attended our Southern Rail picket line. Disabled campaigners have compiled a report alleging that Southern's plans to remove guards breach the Equality Act in making its services less accessible to disabled passengers.
Details and new date to follow.
As London Underground launches all-night running on two lines at weekends, a special squad of cleaners has a special task ...
The Tube's come up with a spiffing scheme
The train stays in service and the bosses beam
But it's not as fun as it might seem
For the Bodily Fluids Interception Team
... with a nod to W.H.Auden's The Night Train ...
I'd rather go to prison or be given a huge fine
Or have cosmetic surgery from Doctor Frankenstein
Sit through a boring lecture on interior design
Yes, I’d rather do most anything than cross a picket line
Due to impending surgery, this event has been postponed. Watch this space for rescheduled date!
Janine tutors this week-long course, which takes place in Glasgow and is free to RMT reps and members to attend.
For more information and to register, email Janet Cassidy.
Election of co-Chair: Sean McGovern, the Disabled Workers' representative on TUC General Council, chairs the Committee. I was re-elected unopposed as co-Chair for another year.
Action on Resolutions from Disabled Workers Conference