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IndustriALL women’s workshop in Colombia promotes organizing

30 July, 2014IndustriALL Colombia organized its 20th women’s workshop in Bogotá on 3 and 4 July 2014. Women from the affiliated unions Sintravidricol, Sintracarbon, Sintraindomecol, Utrammicol and Sintraelecol attended the workshop.

Participants learned about the women’s action plan in Colombia, as well as the status of the developments in creating one national union in the mining and energy sector (CUSME). Moreover, they exchanged experiences about precarious work in Colombia and Latin America and developed their leadership skills.

At the IndustriALL regional women’s conference in May 2014, the lack of resources, the absence of gender policies and the male domination in representation emerged as the most salient issues. The women felt that they had less resources for projects and initiatives than the men have. As far as gender policies are concerned, they said that what was there was improvised and spontaneous according to the circumstances. They wanted to find out how to develop a consistent gender policy.

The women did not feel that they were sufficiently informed about activities, as information is stuck in drawers and in the hands of union leadership without it being passed on to those directly concerned.

According to the women they are under-represented in trade unions. There are unions with a lot of women members but whose leadership is exclusively male. In addition there are other unions that do not participate, and these unions need to become active. The women proposed establishing a negotiation group in each trade union.

Precarious work, outsourcing, temporary employment require immediate and permanent tackling. And women need to be involved in these struggles. Women have untapped leadership qualities and need to use them to get more women to join unions, especially those women who are contract workers. This will multiply the unions’ ranks and strengthen them.

Participants did a role play on how to recruit women contract workers into the union. The arguments they developed were to improve gender equity, to earn better pay, to work in better conditions and to have a better quality of life. The women are creating an organizing team, and one of these women will participate in the CUSME meetings.

In 2009, the pay gap between men and women in Colombia was 15.8 per cent. However, it went up to 21 per cent in 2012. 12.9 per cent of women are unemployed; the same number for men is only 6.7 per cent. Women have a harder time having access to jobs than men do. They are often up against inflexible role assignments, are either too young or too old to work, it is either an advantage or a disadvantage to be married, they have children or are yet to have them, they often have to have pregnancy tests, they are either too beautiful or too ugly, they are socially disadvantaged, women’s bodies are used to sell services, and ultimately there is the plague of sexual harassment. Nevertheless some recent legislation in Colombia has contributed to equal treatment and equal pay between women and men.

Women at the workshop worked on communication techniques and set up a communication group in order to remain in contact.