Click the attached file to scroll through Janine's report on the work of the ETF Women's Committee. This report was presented to RMT Women's Conference on 4 March.
Europe the continuent, the European Union, and European countries.
- 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.
SpeakEasy: Spoken Word Brussels is an ‘open mic’ evening of spoken word (and a bit of music) in a basement in the Ixelles area of the city. Modelled on similar events in Paris and London, it has been taking place every two weeks since November last year.
I have been talking with Brussels transport workers and trade unionists in the aftermath of the 22 March Daesh bombings which killed 32 people and injured hundreds more. Amidst the news reporting and political demagogy, it is important that their voices are heard.
- The opening address stressed the importance of women workers organising in a male-dominated industry and the context of women's struggles in a time of austerity and terrorism.
- There was a minute’s silence for the victims of terror attacks.
- ATU (Romanian union federation) President expressed his support for women's representation in trade unions, describing this as a hard-fought battle that was yet to be fully won.
- Summary of ETF Women’s work over last few years: training, campaigns, organising women transport workers.
What is working life like for women (and men) on the Bucharest Metro? How does it compare to our situation on London Underground? In Bucharest with the ETF Women's Committee, I spoke with Metro workers and gathered some facts …