An ETF Women’s Committee meeting consists of the elected Committee members, representatives of each sector (railways, civil aviation, etc), guests from affiliated trade unions, local women trade unionists (this time, from Antwerp port), and ETF staff. At the next meeting, we will be joined by the newly-elected young women’s representative.
Women Working at Antwerp Port
Having begun working as a receptionist in 1975, Monique Verbeeck is the first female secretary of the Belgian port union, BTB. She is also the ITF and ETF women port workers’ representative. Monique introduced a deputation of women union activists from the Port of Antwerp, who addressed the meeting and took us on a visit to the port.
From 2007, the socialist government introduced equality legislation and a framework to demand action against sexism and harassment. But since then, the situation has been worsened by economic crisis, with equalities driven off the agenda, curbs on collective bargaining, crèches closed, and equality plans dropped.
When I visited the Port of Antwerp in October 2014 with the ETF Women's Committee, we were due to go to a particular terminal - but it was closed, after a seafarer was killed while a ship was being loaded the previous day. The port is staffed only by registered dockers, under rules similar to the UK's National Dock Labour Scheme, abolished by the Tories in the 1980s.
The third in a series of articles about the German socialist women's movement 1890-1914 written in 2005 - originally published here.
What is often seen as one issue - referred to at the time as the ‘woman question’ - actually developed quite differently amongst women of different classes.