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ICEM Women’s Bulletin: June 2012

5 June, 20121 - South Africa – ICEM SSARO Women’s Committee MeetsOn 8 February, the ICEM Sub Sahara Africa Region Organisation (SSARO) held its Women’s Committee in Johannesburg.

1 - South Africa – ICEM SSARO Women’s Committee Meets

On 8 February, the ICEM Sub Sahara Africa Region Organisation (SSARO) held its Women’s Committee in Johannesburg. The meeting was held against the background of the murder of woman miner Pinky Mosiane in the American Platinum (Amplats) mine in Rustenburg. The delegates held a minute of silence in her memory. The committee joined the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in condemning this brutal murder. NUM has been encouraging women to work in mining, but women have no protection underground. South Africa has excellent laws, but they are apparently not good enough to protect women. Nevertheless, women should not be discouraged from taking up employment in the mines. However, it is up to employers to ensure safe working conditions. The mining houses must create awareness about women’s and men’s roles, especially underground. Unfortunately, some backward attitudes still persist, and these must be combated. In general, there is a high incidence of violence against women.

A report was presented on the ICEM’s HIV/AIDS project in Africa. This project was started in 2004. Eleven countries are involved. Regional and national activities take place every year. Women’s issues are one of the main focuses. Education and prevention are vital as is testing. HIV is treated as a workplace issue. One critical point is the campaign for the use of the female condom, but unfortunately they are still not sufficiently available. To start with, awareness has to be spread about the female condom. The sister from the Togo Electricity Workers’ Union reported on a demonstration that she made of the female condom, where even men wanted to have more information. But unfortunately, female condoms  are not always available.

In South Africa, the sister from the National Union of Metalworkers’ of South Africa (NUMSA) approached the Department of Health who claimed that women complained about the female condom. But she urged the department to bring them back. Women need to be guided on how to approach government ministries. If governments subsidized the female condoms, the cost would be nearly the same as male condoms.

In NUM, eight health and safety office bearers are women. In addition, most peer educators are women. At meetings health desks distributed female condoms which have been sponsored. Moreover employers in the mining industry provide female condoms on the job. Agreements provide for family health coverage. Some people have started to use gel for HIV prevention, but studies are not yet conclusive about its effectiveness.

A general discussion was held on gender work done by the unions. The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (CEPPWAWU) of South Africa  currently has no gender structure. As an aside some employers are extending maternity leave to six months at 60-70% pay.

NUMSA took a resolution to include women in bargaining teams. For now a gender rep is involved in negotiations.

NUM is working on equal pay for equal work. The difficulty is that women are still in jobs that are considered to be insignificant compared to men’s. Women’s issues are often dealt with in other committees than bargaining committees.

In Togo, young women have started to work in the electricity supply industry, although it is not an industry that is generally attractive to women. But in the meantime, they have started to be interested and to be recruited. The challenge is when they are pregnant – they no longer go to the sites but rather stay in the office. Six delegates out of 17 are women.

In Mauritius, a credit union was set up which is one mechanism for attracting informal workers. In addition the union has created an IT school so that informal workers can be trained. The union dues have also been reduced to 1 Rupee in order to make it easier for informal workers to contribute.

The committee made some recommendations for the new Global Union Federation:

  • The women’s structure must continue;
  • Sub-regional women’s meetings must be held and be backed up by functioning sub-regional structures;
  • It would be advisable to visit workplaces where women work;
  • The statutes contemplate a 30 percent women’s quota for the executive, but they are silent about the finance committee and the auditors’ committee; 

The following week, a workshop was held in Johannesburg to plan the new phase of the HIV/AIDS project. There two issues of relevance that women seriously addressed. The main issue is how to empower women to force men to use condoms. Women are considered to be a vulnerable group because of culture and tradition. Reproductive rights and reproductive health must be included in HIV/AIDS work. One new focus should be couples’ awareness and couples’ counseling. Specific issues for women are confidence building and assertiveness, awareness of rights, HIV and AIDS and female reproduction, rape and post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP, sexual harassment and prevention of mother to child transmission or PMTCT. One idea was to approach employers to provide mobile testing units and professional counselors. The workshop was attended by women and men from Ethiopia, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa.


2 - ICEM Women’s Committee Meets for the last Time

The ICEM Women’s Committee met for the last time on 27 February in Geneva. It was attended by representatives from Australia, Poland, Belarus, South Africa, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Russia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Both the ICEM General Secretary and the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) General Secretary addressed the meeting.

In general, the women were concerned that ICEM’s good traditions would continue. They were assured that what was done by ICEM would continue and be improved. As far as provisions in the statutes of the new organisation are concerned, 30% of the seats in the Executive Committee are intended for women. In addition when affiliates send delegations to conferences and Congresses, 30% of the delegates should be women. The affiliates of the three organisations from Australia and New Zealand wrote a letter in addition stipulating that 30% of the leadership of the organisation at all levels needs to be women.

The challenges for the new organisation will primarily be to enable women to meet, to develop and strengthen women’s networks, to mainstream gender and to make sure that it is everyone’s responsibility and that everyone takes responsibility for it. The women’s section will have the opportunity to accommodate women from textiles through to metalworkers.

The regions reported on their successes and achievements. Christine Olivier from NUMSA, Chair of the SSARO Women’s Committee, reported on the progress made in implementing the Charter for Working Women in Africa. The charter was written in 2008. It addressed gender justice and HIV/AIDS. In connection with gender justice, equal opportunity is the greater challenge. In collective bargaining, issues affecting women are often compromised. That is why women have to be part of bargaining teams. There has been some progress on leadership, but the progress is slow in getting women elected.

ICEM has had an excellent HIV/AIDS project, but the concern in the meantime is that the funding may run out. In addition, many affiliates also run their own programmes. The problem is that traditions and cultures keep women as second-class citizens. Women have no right to decide for themselves. One other issue is the availability or lack thereof of female condoms. Women need education about female condoms because up to now they have been reluctant to use them. It is up to governments to make them available because with subsidies or government provision they will be used as often as male condoms.

The SSARO women’s committee met in February in Johannesburg. The meeting was held against the backdrop of a woman, Pinky, being murdered underground in a mine. In addition there was one more rape and another woman was raped on her way home. These are fundamental challenges to women. This violence is simply the manifestation of patriarchal stereotypes and gender inequalities. After the incidents the women’s committee went to the mine and spoke to the men to ask them to fight against violence. We need to run effective campaigns against violence. ICEM and NUM will work together to make sure that women continue to be employed in mines.

One more area of work that needs more concentration is the informal economy. There we must do more to organise workers, most of whom are women. The union Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO)has good programmes, and they should share their experiences.

The SSARO women’s committee has some views on the new organisation. The women feel there should be balanced leadership from the three former GUFs; they do not want one GUF to dominate the other two. They feel there should be an appropriate North-South and gender balance. It is true that there is consensus on the 30% women representation on the executive, but there should also be 30% women in all levels and in all structures. The committee made proposals for women’s representation in Africa in light of the different backgrounds and cultures in the three GUFs. The ICEM’s structure should be the one to continue. The committee also proposed providing for budgets that cater to women, especially for women’s capacity building.

As far as Latin America is concerned, a project has been running for two years on collective bargaining in all countries in the region where ICEM has affiliates. Many workshops were held. In Costa Rica, new clauses have been introduced in agreements. In addition, a law stipulates that all organisations must have gender parity in leadership.  In Brazil, the main focus is working against violence. There is a law, but it is not enough. Moreover, the Força Sindical chemical unions are working with women at the shop floor level to prepare demands for collective bargaining. The demands must come from the bottom up and start from the shop floor. The demands for 8 March celebrations are for reducing working time, putting a stop to human trafficking, decent work. The Força Sindical confederation does a lot of work on HIV/AIDS. Three women are local presidents of the FEQUIMFAR federation. It has been possible to bring more women in at all levels. They expressed their pride in ICEM.

Lorraine Usher from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Australia, and chair of the ICEM Asia-Pacific Women’s Committee presented the work done up to now on ILO Convention 183. It is a question of working to get the Convention ratified because up to now no country in the region has ratified it. Australia has better maternity coverage than what is foreseen by the Convention. The new policy also covers contract workers. Up to now maternity was negotiated by agreements. In spite of the fact that more women are now covered, Australia still is unlikely to ratify the Convention. Australia has higher maternity benefits than neighboring countries.

One recurring issue is violence, violence at home and at work.

CFMEU represents male-dominated industries. At best, CFMEU has 9% women membership and at worst 3%. It is a question of changing the critical mass in industry. The point is for women in Australia to get good jobs. Do the women want these jobs? Most women want to have the choice. BHP Billiton insists on 20% women in new jobs. The union has adopted resolutions to ensure that women are represented in all areas. Women are taking a stronger stand. Districts are taking affirmative action. Representatives from the three GUFs in Australia and New Zealand met, and the 30% quota for women was adopted. Congress and other meetings are still a challenge – women must make up the delegations whenever the size of the delegations allows it.

Evgenia Esenina of Russia reported on the progress made in Eastern Europe and Trans-Caucasus. In that region, the women traditionally participate, many women are local presidents. Women participate in collective bargaining. The women in the region keep contact with each other. A gender audit was done in the region. The demographic situation is dire in Russia. In addition pension reform is necessary because the pension is insufficient for retirement. One particularity is that there are many homeworkers in Uzbekistan, and they have regulations for their work. Up to now, Evgenia Esenina has been the chair of the Women’s Committee and a Vice President of ICEM. This is a position that the women are losing in the new organisation. The best would be to have the chair of the women’s committee as one of the vice-presidents. This would require amending the new statutes.

The representatives from UNIONEN, Sweden, explained briefly some of their most recent initiatives. One focus that they have is to create parental-friendly workplaces. That means workplaces with a good work-life balance. They have a competition to nominate the most parental-friendly workplace. They do wage mapping to discover where gender-related pay gaps are. The mapping is one issue that should be covered in collective bargaining. They also strive to achieve a more equal split in parental leave, which means that men need to be encouraged to take more leave. Women representation on company boards is one important topic for them. It is still low in Sweden, unlike in Norway.

Montserrat Lopez de la Torre, FITAG-UGT, Spain, made a presentation on violence. Violence against women is on the rise in all countries and in all social classes. In Spain in recent years legislation has made it possible for trade unions to conclude equality plans with companies, and one theme of the equality plans is the fight against violence. Endesa and St Gobain are two companies who have agreements with measures to combat violence against women. In Spain, the chemical industry agreement also contains articles on violence. Now the question is to have this agreement spread to other industries. In Spain, the recent elections for workplace representation show the importance of women’s participation. They achieved 30 to 32% representation. The crisis has hit women particularly hard, with the risk that they will be sent home, losing the jobs that it was so hard for them to get to begin with. In addition, the social services that women need, not least in cases of violence, are being cut – the women’s shelters, health budgets. Without these services it will be even more difficult for women and men to share household tasks.

The Women’s Committee recommended that Montserrat Lopez de la Torre should be the chair of the Women’s Committee after the 2012 Founding Congress. It is hoped that she will be nominated by the Western European region.

The Women’s Committee came up with the following recommendations for the new organisation:

  • The Women’s Committee must continue;
  • The women must be elected in the regions;
  • The Women’s Committee must meet before the Executive. This is particularly true for the first meeting in 2012 where the committee needs to set priorities and get acquainted. Some suggestions for priorities are violence, HIV/AIDS, maternity protection and project activity;
  • The question of parity must be examined in the medium term;
  • The Women’s Bulletin must continue;
  • Implement true gender mainstreaming;
  • Integrate the women more in the sectors;
  • Examine and put into practice the best traditions from the three GUFs;
  • Make gender equality one pillar of the new organization;


3 - Colombia – ICEM Colombia Celebrates International Women’s Day

On 7-8 March, ICEM Colombia held its XVII women’s meeting in Bogotá on the occasion of International Women’s Day. It was attended by ICEM affiliates Sintraelecol, Sintracarbon, Fenaltec, Sintravidricol, Sintragasquimed, Sintracarcol and other non-affiliates. The main point of the workshop was to go into detail on the role gender plays in determining policies aimed at creating a just and peaceful society.


                 Women’s presence at ICEM events has improved. There is more awareness of how important their contribution is to trade unions. Nevertheless the generally accepted goal of 30% women’s participation is still far from being achieved in Colombia. The men have realized that if they were more involved in household chores, it would free the women to participate. More work has to be done on this. Building women’s self-esteem is the key for them to participate. Women are still the object of more discrimination than men, in spite of the fact that their intellectual capacities far exceed the men’s. Employers discriminate against women when they are pregnant, they degrade them with sexual harassment, or they hire them not for their achievements but for their appearance.

A presentation was made on the Colombian law that guarantees a life free of violence. The law provides for measures for awareness raising, prevention and safeguarding against violence as well as for protection on the job. The law also contemplates sexual harassment.

Mindful that unity would be the best way forward, the meeting concluded by proposing actions that the women can take all together to achieve real representation.


4 - South Africa – NUM Holds its 5th National Women’s Conference

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) held its 5thNational Women’s Conference on 15-16 March in Johannesburg, on the occasion of NUM’s 30thanniversary. A total of 403 delegates together with guests attended the conference. The theme of the conference was “Intensify Women Emancipation Now and Beyond 30 Years.”

The conference takes places against the backdrop of high rates of poverty which affect women especially. Most people unemployed are women. This makes women overly dependent on spouses, which means they end up in oppressive relationships. Women do not feel free as women.

Women feel they are not safe at work. They ask themselves whether they are unwanted as comrades. Belt attendants in particular should not work alone underground, whether they are men or women. The 10% quota for women in mining was not achieved by most regions. Working underground seems to only be an area for black women.

Women still need to know how to defend themselves against HIV. They are keenly aware of their responsibility to stop it. They aim for a society free of HIV and AIDS. Their main concern is to not make their children orphans. One demand is to continue with HIV medication even after retirement. Female condoms are a priority area. Still there are challenges involved in its use. Women do not necessarily find it comfortable. Employers are called upon to provide them, even the new model which is more expensive.

The conference deplored the brutal killing of Pinky Mosiane inside a mine shaft of American Platinum’s (Amplats) Khomanani Mine in Rustenburg, which occurred in February. One cause that made the murder possible was that she was working alone in a remote area. Since then, this is no longer allowed. The company hired a specialist to deal with the investigation. It is imperative that justice to this horrific crime occur, otherwise others may feel motivated to commit similar crimes, thinking that they would go unpunished. Amplats is providing one-on-one counseling to women, and the women now work in pairs. Nevertheless, male comrades do not treat the women with respect. This case proves that laws are not enough. Companies must assume more responsibility for violence. One suggestion is to include clauses for violence prevention in global agreements with companies.

A number of gender issues are nonetheless unresolved. For example protective clothing for women miners is still needed. Toilets need to be secured underground. Companies must accommodate pregnant women. Still the companies are asked to provide birth control. Women are urged to delay pregnancies in order to achieve more of their goals in life. Transport, also to meetings, has to be provided, because people attending meetings sometimes get assaulted. Women need to be taken in as educators.

Women make up 14% of NUM membership. They now work in the core business of the industry. In addition 21% of Eskom management is women – the target is 30%. Diamond mining has made the most progress in terms of women’s empowerment. However, more research is needed to ensure that women are not being exposed to hazards in the quest for equal opportunities. All in all the country’s transformational laws have provided an enabling environment. It is still a challenge, however, to navigate through traditional customs and to shed the yoke of patriarchy.


5 - Romania – ICEM Affiliates Commemorate 28 April

On 27-28 April, ICEM Romanian affiliates met to commemorate the victims of accidents on the job and to discuss the creation of the new GUF. In this connection the incidence of violence is on the rise. Statistics show that violence against women has gone up by 40%, supposedly as a result of the crisis. The women also welcomed the new ILO Convention on Domestic Workers.


The women called for the creation of an education programme for all affiliates. They have also contacted women from the metal and textile branches to get them to participate. What the women want is access to EU funds. They would like to have training on leadership and trade union management. They feel they need retraining to come to grips with new challenges at work. They felt that an exchange with business women would be useful. And yet again the issue of violence urgently needs tackling.


6 - Belgium – New Legislation Is Passed to Reduce the Gender Pay Gap

A new law has been passed in Belgium to provide for gender-neutral pay policies. Companies are required to draw up plans and action plans to adapt their policies. The law also provides for the appointment of a mediator at company level who has to deal with gender inequalities. Every second year the pay structure has to be analysed in detail and sent to the works council. An action plan will be drawn up to remedy the situation if necessary, and a report on progress has to be made. A special report on part-time work as well as on benefits in addition to pay has to be drawn up. The Ministry of Labor will monitor sectoral agreements to make sure they are gender neutral and evaluate the systems introduced to combat the gender pay gap. Job ratings primarily have to be gender neutral. If necessary measures will have to be taken to ensure that the gap is reduced.

In addition, parental leave has gone up in Belgium from three to four months. In addition the law obliges employers to allow requests for flexible working time for employees who return from parental leave.These measures will allow workers to improve their work-life balance.


7 - Germany – The Government Publishes a Report on Equal Opportunities

IGBCE reports on the recent report published by a government commission on equal opportunities between men and women in Germany. The result of the report is that there is still a long way to go to achieve equality. The first government report on equal opportunities concludes that Germany has a long way to catch up in terms of equality. The main demands that the researchers came up with to make progress are the elimination of mini, informal jobs, the introduction of quotas for women on company boards and the improvement of the situation with childcare and eldercare.

The report scrutinized gender roles, educational opportunities, employment, the gender pay gap and leadership. The situation is particularly dire with women in leadership positions, for their share has been stagnating for years at a low level. That is why the report is in favour of a quota for women. One obstacle to a meaningful career seems to be working reduced hours. The commission therefore demands opening up the possibility to work part-time in executive positions. One other problem with part-time work was found to be the pay discrimination between part-time workers and full-time workers for the same job, which makes women’s position even worse who are already in danger of earning less than men for the same work.

The report indicates that the differences between men and women worsen over their lifetimes. Nowadays women and men start their careers with the same conditions. Once a couple starts a family, the traditional gender roles take over – with women forgoing not only their own income but often also their own careers. This also has adverse effects in the long run. Women frequently have very poor pensions in old age which often do not even meet their existential needs. That is why one of the report’s demands is the transposition of mini and informal jobs into permanent jobs with social security coverage. In general, the report found that inequalities only grow worse over time.

The authors considered one of the reasons for the pay gap to be the choice of job. Women still often decide to be nurses or assistants instead of working in a laboratory or even in research. Hence the experts indicate that women should already receive orientation for scientific and technical jobs when they are deciding on a career. Therefore the conclusion is that new paths mean equal opportunities.


8 - OECD – General Secretary Exhorts Japan To Get More Women into the Work Force

At an OECD forum held in April in Tokyo, OECD General Secretary Angel Gurria called upon the Japanese government to raise the number of women working in order to make up for the ageing population. Otherwise his view was that the only solution would be to resort to immigrants. About 60% of Japanese women stop working after bearing children, mainly due to the problems involved in combining work and family life. According to him women are underrepresented on the labour market, but at the same time overrepresented among the so-called non-regular employees such as part-time workers. More than half the women working in Japan do not have a full-time job with an open-end contract. The OECD has advised Japan to make the labour market more attractive for women, especially by shortening the long working days, which are hardly compatible with family life. In addition men must be encouraged to take leave, and childcare has to be extended. According to some sources the Japanese population will fall by 32.3% between 2010 and 2060, which means that the elderly will make up nearly 40% of the population. Employers are concerned that Japan will fall below the top five economic powers if nothing is done to reverse the demographic trends.


9 - Spain – Holcim Signs an Equality Agreement

In April, Holcim Spain signed an equal opportunities agreement with the unions FECOMA-CCOO and MCA-UGT. The equality plan includes a series of measures that have been agreed upon by the company and the most representative trade unions in order to guarantee the same opportunities in employment, in recruitment, in pay, training, development, internal promotion and working conditions to women and men. It also includes measures to improve women’s access to executive positions. The plan aims to eliminate discrimination of all kinds. The document also includes a protocol on sexual harassment and bullying. Finally, the agreement also includes measures to make it possible to accommodate working life and family life and to ensure an appropriate work-life balance. In order to make the plan a reality, training will be given to the entire workforce on gender equality, and a culture favouring equality will be promoted. A monitoring committee has been set up which is made up of representatives of the company and trade unions. With this plan the company claims that it aims to eradicate discrimination and ensure a climate of equality in the company’s work processes.


10 - Switzerland – Dialogue on Equal Pay

In Switzerland on average women earn 18.4% less than men in spite of legislation and collective agreements. That is why three years ago the social partners launched an initiative called Dialogue on Equal Pay. This dialogue was supposed to go until 2014 and aimed to analyse company pay structures. Companies participate in this dialogue on a voluntary basis and sign an agreement with the relevant union, committing themselves to check that there is no pay discrimination and to remedy it if necessary.

Novartis, for example, has internal procedures which were set up together with the employee representatives. The procedure had ups and downs, but finally in 2004 salaries were corrected. One-third of the cases had their salaries revalued. The people concerned started earning much more than before, proof that discrimination did exist. The employees who organized the mobilization were very proud.

If employees want their company to participate in the dialogue on equality, they must get their representatives to present the case to management. It is important to do it collectively, because otherwise an individual would be too exposed. If employers do not join this initiative in greater numbers, other measures than voluntary ones will have to be taken to make equality stick.


From Our Readers:

Irène Lafontaine from the Communications, Energy, Paperworkers (CEP) Union of Canada sent us the link to that country’s Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Statement on International Women's Day – 8 March 8. The theme:  “Give us Bread but Give us Roses: A Call for Action on Ending Barriers to Women's Equality.”


“On 8 March, we will be launching Work it!, a web-based video game. The game is a way to start a conversation about the challenges women face in balancing work and family life - from finding child care to securing safe housing to dealing with a stressful workplace. The game links back to web-based resources which provide more information about the real-life challenges facing working women in Canada. The game will send a strong message not only about these challenges, but also about how unions can make working life better (and more balanced) for women.”

Look for the game on the CLC website starting on 6 March, and help spread the word on International Women's Day through your social media networks. We have produced a card to help promote the game; you can download it for printing here:


If you have questions about the game, please contact Vicky Smallman in the Women's and Human Rights Department at [email protected]

Linda Briskin from York University, Canada, sent us the link for a paper she published with the ILO:


Charlotte from Cote d’Ivoire organized a successful activity about HIV/AIDS on women’s day. It was televised. Here is the link http://news.abidjan.net/v/9072.html

Unionen Sweden sent in its Guidelines for equal treatment, which can be summarized as follows:

“Unionen believes that all forms of discrimination contribute to lower growth and create substandard workplaces. Unionen regards all forms of discrimination as evidence of a lack of respect for the individual and their competence. No single ground of discrimination can be seen as more serious than the other. All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Unionen wants to see a labour market that reflects the composition of people in society at large, where competence and experience take precedence over archaic and prejudiced views about sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age.

“Unionen’s Policy Guidelines for Equal Treatment identify the changes required of the social partners, politicians and other agents, to bring about a working life free from discrimination. The lack of open environments results in missed opportunities to develop competencies and infrastructure aiming to strengthen competitiveness in the global economy. Discrimination can, furthermore, isolate the employer from the community at large and damage the company’s reputation, which in turn could affect profit and potential market capitalization. Discrimination counteracts growth. This is of great interest since Sweden could approach a demographic crisis, where the proportion of those gainfully employed will be unable to meet the need of labour.

“Unionen wants to ensure that all recruitment and promotion be free from discriminatory and intrusive questions and decisions. Informal channels usually consist of the interviewer’s or employee’s own network. At times vacant posts are not advertised at all. In this system those who do not have the “right” background or the “right” contacts are disadvantaged. Also the employers and the labour market miss out on available competencies. Union representatives have an important task to raise questions about the above-mentioned pitfalls and provide solutions as to how the workplace can become transparent and non-discriminatory.

“Unionen does not want part-time and probationary employment to occur routinely. Unionen believes that special monitoring is needed to ensure that vulnerable groups are not subjected to arbitrary decisions in case of reorganization and layoffs. Unionen shall endeavor to make the premises of workplaces, their operations, information and