The IndustriALL Women’s Committee met in Geneva, Switzerland, on 26 April, setting an action plan for the immediate future.
It is the first Women’s Committee meeting since IndustriALL’s Congress in Rio in October 2016, where a target was set in IndustriALL’s statutes for 40 per cent representation of women in decision-making bodies by 2020.
“We have taken a huge leap forward and we are in a strong position to move further towards our goals,” said Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary. “As sisters we must not take all the responsibility for that, it must also be taken by the Executive Committee.”
The Committee has new co-chairs Michele O’Neil from Australia and Monica Veloso from Brazil. Participants began by approving terms of reference setting out the purpose and the role of the Women’s Committee in IndustriALL.
The Women’s Committee approved the following priorities, which are based on the work already being done in the regions.
- Women’s empowerment through education, training and mentorship in order to:
- Increase women’s participation in unions
- Increase women's representation and leadership
- Promote equality at work and in the unions, including addressing the wage gap
- Eliminate violence against women
- Organize more women
- Address issues for precarious women workers
- Maternity protection
Participants also called for a means to better share information and experiences as a way to learn from each other. Others highlighted that organizing women, especially young women, should be a priority for the Committee.
In a key outcome of the meeting, participants gave IndustriALL the mandate to work on four main action points:
- Each sector to develop plans to identify and work on issues for women workers in the sector as well as women’s representation and participation in sectoral activities
- Ask each region to develop its own plan to increase participation and representation of women from the region in IndustriALL structures
- Collect data on where women are in the sectors as well as in affiliates
- A report to be produced that identifies resources allocated to women
Gender and programme coordinator, Armelle Seby, highlighted IndustriALL’s work towards promoting women’s participation, which include the regional women’s committees and national IndustriALL women’s committees in more than 20 countries. She outlined IndustriALL’s work to organize women and integrate women’s issues in all union work, not through separate women’s structures. She highlighted successful IndustriALL campaigns, eg maternity protection in South East Asia.
IndustriALL has also been empowering women through education programmes to improve skills and collective bargaining, so that women’s issues are included in collective bargaining agreements.
Women’s representation in IndustriALL
While women are well represented in IndustriALL projects, at 35 per cent, the figure is much lower for global company networks, at only 11 per cent, and global sectoral meetings at 15 per cent, showing much need for improvement.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“The 40 per cent quota is a means and not an objective. What we are fighting for is equity. So we have to empower women and get more women in leadership to achieve equity.”
At present IndustriALL’s Executive Committee titular members are 32 per cent women. Only one region has so far met and exceeded the 40 per cent target - North America – with 44 per cent women.
In concluding the meeting, Holdcroft said:
“The Women’s Committee has made a great start. We’ve established priorities and decided on immediate action to take towards achieving the goal of 40 per cent women’s representation.”