I wrote this article for Labour Briefing in April 2013:
On International Working Women’s Day, set up over 100 years ago by socialist women in the workers’ movement to fight for our rights, RMT launched our model policy for transport employers about domestic violence.
Two years ago, the union's Women's Conference passed a policy rightly deploring cuts to women’s refuges. But as a trade union, we also have a responsibility to identify the workplace implications of domestic violence, and to press this issue through our collective bargaining with employers.
Transport workers are subjected to an alarming level of assault at work, often taking the hit for frustrations with our bosses' failure to provide a decent service. Unions have long demanded the right of transport workers to go to work without being assaulted. But we also need the right to go home after work and not be assaulted.
Domestic violence is not a private issue, not something that stays behind closed doors. It is a workplace issue, that affects its victims – women and men – at work. It can affect how well you do you job, your timekeeping, your physical and mental well-being.
Our model policy contains key demands such as:
- no disciplinary action under Attendance policies for non-attendance and lateness caused by domestic abuse
- protection from abusers seeking you out at work
- time off that you might need to escape domestic violence, or to help a close friend or relative.
A policy is just a piece of paper unless we put it into action. So, RMT will submit it to the Company Council of every employer we have negotiating rights with, and we want rank-and-file activists to mobilise themselves and their workmates to show employers how strongly we feel. We have to get the issue of domestic violence out from behind closed doors and into the mainstream of industrial relations.
Janet Cassidy, Chair of RMT’s National Women’s Advisory Committee, said: “It is important for this Policy to be launched across the transport industry, especially on International Women's Day. Women need to know that support is there and that violence towards women and children will not be tolerated. Women are inclined to keep this violence to themselves and with welfare cuts looming it is expected that violence may escalate. Don't keep it to yourself speak out. Help is there.”
I know that other unions have been promoting policies like this for some time, and I hope we can build on their work to effectively challenge the scourge of domestic violence.