Maternity protection, sexual harassment in the workplace, violence against women and women’s representation in union leadership positions were some of the key issues discussed at a women’s committee meeting held in Delhi, India, on 14 July.
The meeting highlighted the serious issue of sexual harassment at workplaces across India and resolved to hold training sessions to raise awareness among workers about the issue and on India’s legislation, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.
Committee members called for increased efforts to campaign for ratification of ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection. Participants decided to emphasize the inclusion of maternity protection measures in collective bargaining agreements, including paid maternity leave and transfer to lighter work during pregnancy. Committee members also expressed concerns over security of women working on night shifts.
Participating in the meeting, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle called on the women’s committee to ensure that more women participate and are represented in union activities. Kemperle also highlighted the unions’ role in fighting against increasing violence against women.
India women’s committee members supported the call for a 40 per cent quota for women in IndustriALL leadership positions. To ensure increased women’s participation in IndustriALL Congress in Rio in October 2016, India women’s committee members decided to call upon respective federations and unions to nominate more women representatives to attend.
Participants expressed grave concerns over the lack of occupational health and safety measures for precarious women workers in hazardous industries. Women who handle plastics extracted during the shipbreaking process in the Bhavnagar area of Gujarat work with no personal protective equipment and as a result face severe health problems. Women in wire harnessing and chemical industries experience problems with skin and eyes, as well as complications related to their reproductive health.
On the issue of increasing automation in factories across the world and swift transformation of production activities towards Industry 4.0, Kemperle argued that rapid technological changes at workplaces would see human beings replaced with robots. Such transformation will particularly impact on women workers who are already facing various challenges at the world of work.
The meeting was presided by Devika Singh, chair of India women’s committee.