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Turkish women form trade union platform network

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22 May, 2015IndustriALL organized a meeting on 7 May in Istanbul to create a women’s trade union platform network. The meeting was supported by FES and attended by about 25 women from Celik-Is, Tes-Is, Teksif, Oy Iplik-Is, Disk/Tekstil, Deriteks, Birlesik Metal-Is and Petrol-Is.

The unions all have varying levels of women’s activities. Most say they have tried to educate men about gender equality, but the success of these initiatives has been limited.

The women identified weaknesses like no continuity in participation, being too passive and invisible. Many unions have paper policies for women, and their committees are paper tigers. Men often stall women, and the women give up waiting for their demands to be met. Moreover, many women still have to ask permission from husbands or fathers to participate in trade unions.

Women’s main demand at work is childcare. Too often women leave paid employment because they have to look after children. Women demand from unions that more women have to be given access to collective bargaining processes. In this way it is hoped that it would no longer be women’s concerns that are dropped first from union bargaining agendas.  Unions should hire and promote more women organizers. And unions need to fight bullying and harassment.

Monika Kemperle presented IndustriALL’s five goals and what they mean for women. In connection with Turkey it is vital to organize more women in trade unions to overcome women’s low presence. Women at the meeting agreed that trade unions have to change in order to make women feel a part of them.

The women agreed to work on women’s health and safety as one topic to encompass all trade unions above and beyond ideological borders. In spite of disagreements among unions on certain issues, the women are confident that they can work together in an IndustriALL women’s platform, and that this work will help them make progress.

Women’s health and safety is one area where gender inequality is the most glaring – more resources are spent on men, and not enough research is done on women’s health issues. In Turkey almost no work is done on women’s health, which is why the women felt that their work could make a difference.

The workshop was followed on 8 May by a symposium supported by FES to launch the publication called Women with Unions and Unions Without Women. The publication asked the question: are trade unions men’s business, or can we have them with women? The answer to this question will be found in the fight to overcome millennium-old prejudices and stereotypes.