13 March, 2014Unions are instrumental in promoting the rights of women in the workplace by fighting for gender equality and equal pay. In recognition of International Women’s Day on Saturday 8 March, IndustriALL affiliates around the world organized many different events to celebrate the occasion.
Women from the Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club in the capital Dhaka to demand the implementation of the new minimum wage at all garment factories in Bangladesh.
Their actions were followed by a colourful rally by women from the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) calling for implementation of equal wages, equal rights, equal promotion and equal dignity for women workers in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector. In particular, the marchers called on the private sector to increase maternity leave from four to six months to match the public sector.
In Cambodia, a planned public forum in support of a living wage for garment workers, 80 per cent of whom are women, was thwarted by the government which barred the gathering in a heavy show of force. Despite this, over 500 union activists braved the ban to mark the occasion.
IndustriALL affiliate IG Metall, which represents 2.4 million workers in Germany, chose Women’s Day to launch a campaign entitled: “If you want the best, you can’t do without women”. After listening to the experiences of 500,000 workers in an extensive survey last year, IG Metall’s new drive will fight for equal opportunities, pay equity, work-life balance and good career development prospects for women.
Women workers from 11 IndustriALL affiliates rallied in front of the Selamat Datang Monument in the heart of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Women’s Day.
Organized by the Women’s Committee of the IndustriALL Indonesia Council, trade union members gathered in solidarity for women workers in Cambodia. In addition, they called on the Indonesian government to protect the reproductive rights of women workers, especially those in precarious work. They also urged the Indonesian government to end discrimination in the workplace and ratify the ILO Convention No. 183 on maternity protection.
Members of IndustriALL affiliates distributed roses, a symbol of women’s dignity in Japan, to people on the streets of Tokyo on Women’s Day as part of a demonstration organized by JTUC-Rengo, the largest trade union confederation in Japan.
More than 800 women and men from Japanese unions, including IndustriALL affiliate, UA ZENSEN, the country’s biggest industrial union, rallied to demand an end to harassment in the workplace due to reasons of gender, pregnancy or childbearing.
JTUC and its affiliates also called for an urgent amendment of the Equal Opportunity Employment Law to enforce gender equality in work and to stop sexual discrimination.
COS-ONE, the electricity workers’ union, celebrated Women’s Day in Casablanca, where some 600 women from the 16 regions in Morocco gathered for speeches and an entertainment program that featured performances by famous Moroccan artists. IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Monika Kemperle, addressed the opening ceremony where women voiced demands higher pay, pension rights and job security.
In his tribute to International Women’s Day, Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director for Canada, said:
“Left to the market alone, workers from all equality-seeking groups would continue to be marginalized. Steelworkers bargain wage rates, seniority systems and other contract provisions that refuse to discriminate against women or any group of workers.”
He also praised the work done by USW women's committees and activists “The work you do advances women's equality and rights, within the union and throughout our global society,” he added.
Over a thousand women members of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union in Sri Lanka took to the streets in a 3km walk to the Katunayake Free Trade Zone to celebrate the 103rd International Women’s Day. In a fanfare of music, folk dancing and singing, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher women united to demand social dignity, particularly for those women working in the RMG sector.
The Women’s Platform of Progressive Unions from the Turkish confederation, Turk-Is, gathered on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day. The rally, which included members from IndustriAll affiliate Petrol-Is, was also joined by a delegation from Afghanistan. Participants called on more women to join unions and demanded equal pay and a life without violence. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination are rampant due to the male dominated society in Turkey. As the government imposes more and more precarious and flexible work, it is women who are the worst affected being the first to be laid off in times of crisis. The women called for regular, secure, unionized jobs with a decent wage, and pension rights.