The final part of my report from the European Transport Workers' Federation's Women's Committee meeting held in Berlin on 12-13 October 2015.
Mid-term women's conference.
The Committee's work is organised around 4-year terms: we are currently in the 2013-17 term. The mid-term conference is scheduled to take place in Istanbul on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 April 2016. Sixty delegates' places are centrally funded, so I hope that RMT will send a decent-sized delegation.
The conference will include: opening address from Turkish trade unions; guest speakers, including from the International Transport workers' Federation (ITF); presentations on a recent study of women in transport, and on organising migrant women transport workers; an update on the committee's work; and a half day of workshops identifying issues for future campaigning.
I proposed inviting a Kurdish woman speaker: the invitation will be offered, but Kurdish women may have security concerns.
The EU's European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has published an Opinion on Women and Transport. This is of little consequence in terms of decision-making, but it does identify some key factors in the under-representation of women in transport employment and includes some useful facts and statistics in its Appendix. It identifies some key factors in the under-representation of women in transport employment, but heavily promotes 'women in business' as a way forward. It also recommends TfL's "100 women" as an example of a "co-ordinated approach" between institutions and trade unions despite the fact that the trade unions were not, to my knowledge, involved in it, and despite the increasing problems of jobs cuts and harassment/assault against TfL's female workforce.
The EU's Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc hosted a 'brainstorming meeting' on 24 September about women in transport. It identified the three most pressing issues as: stereotypes of transport work as male , with a male-centred culture; lack of data and awareness; and the unattractiveness of transport work to women, including a harsh working environment. Several members of our Committee felt that this did not give sufficient weight to concrete issues such as work-life balance, family-unfriendly working hours and lower pay for women transport workers. It appears that the Commissioner thinks that under-representation of women in transport work is mainly caused by issues in people's heads rather than by discriminatory and exploitative working conditions. So it is little surprise that the solutions suggested are largely concerned with raising awareness rather than improving wages and conditions.
Reports and business
- We endorsed our new Committee member - Laura Andrei from FILT CGIL (Italy). Laura reported on the situation in Italy: cuts in public services have led to cuts in trade union resources. Cuts and privatisation have meant that there is more work for unions to do but fewer resources available to do it. Participating in international campaigns has become particularly difficult. Women are losing their jobs because they don't have the means to balance life and work because of cuts in social services.
- As always, a local woman transport worker addressed the meeting. Our guest this time (sorry, I didn't get her name) is an EVG member who works compiling schedules in a railway engineering team that is 50:50 women:men. She reported that it remains difficult to implement equal pay and to pinpoint reasons why women are not getting jobs and promotions.
- There is a vacancy for a women's representative on the ETF Executive. Unions will be asked to nominate, and the post elected at the next Women's Committee meeting in April.
- ETF website: It's not user-friendly, it's pretty rubbish really. It's going to be updated and improved, but we don't know when.
- The Committee visited the German Parliament and was supposed to meet with Martin Burkert, Social Democratic Party (SPD) member of parliament and chair of the Transport Committee, but he had to attend an urgent meeting about 5,000 job cuts that had just been announced. His replacement showed us round and explained the committee's work, but was not willing to answer the political questions that we had planned to put to Martin. These included two from me, about: fighting the Fourth Railway Package; and endorsing our campaign Violence Against Women Transport Workers: It's Not Part of the Job.