5 March, 2015IndustriALL is calling on its affiliated unions to take action on International Women's Day on 8 March.
We are commemorating this 8 March, International Women’s Day, against the backdrop of violence that is affecting more and more women worldwide; women victims of armed conflict and religious intolerance - conflicts that have nothing to do with religion, where yet again women are used as tools of war.
These crises together with the continuing economic strife are a direct threat to women’s rights and an attack on women’s achievements. In 2015, women continue to be challenged by the persistence of violence, traditional gender roles and gender stereotypes, emerging environmental concerns, lack of access to health services and extremism.
Racial, class, cultural, social, economic, religious and political structures thrive on the exploitation of women. Women are still vulnerable to violence at home and in society as well as lacking many legal protections such as maternity leave.
In Europe, austerity means that women’s maternity benefits are being cut and the progress made toward encouraging fathers to help out more at home is doomed. Women still face the choice of being mothers or workers in many cases.
IndustriALL’s Asia-Pacific region has placed this 8 March under the sign of maternity protection for all women, a demand which is necessary because of the ever increasing army of precarious workers who do not enjoy maternity protection when they work under casual and informal conditions.
Collective bargaining can make up for the absence of women friendly laws. Nevertheless trade unions have to see to it that the proposals demanded by women are not traded off in negotiations for the proposals made by men. Even though women make up the majority of the workforce in industries such as electronics and garments, they are still far from being represented adequately in trade union leadership. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating on higher wages and better working conditions.
Christine Olivier, Chair of the IndustriALL Women’s Committee highlights the stark challenges still facing women:
“Women’s trade union membership stands on average at 40 per cent, yet women occupy only 15 per cent of the top decision-making positions in their organizations. Women’s labour force participation rates are stagnating at 26 percentage points lower than those of men. Women continue to predominate in informal, low-quality, precarious and undervalued jobs. Women’s average wages are between four and 36 per cent less than those of men. Gender-based violence remains an all-too-tolerated feature of the workplace, with no comprehensive international legal standard to outlaw it.”
IndustriALL, together with the ITUC, urges our affiliated organizations to lobby governments to put a proposal on gender-based violence on the agenda of a future International Labour Conference of the ILO. This item will be discussed at the ILO Governing Body from 12 to 27 March 2015. It is therefore urgent to contact members of the Governing Body to press upon them the need to support this proposal and to stress how important it is to adopt an international standard to address gender-based violence at work.
Notwithstanding the importance of maternity protection women still need to advance beyond motherhood issues to achieve gender equality in pay, promotions, non-stereotyping of work and non-discrimination.
Monika Kemperle, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, explained, “We at IndustriALL are convinced that we need a quota to ensure adequate women’s representation. A quota can be a temporary measure that can be in place until it is no longer needed. But the fundamental transformation of society and trade unions will not be made on the basis of a quota alone. Gender transformation should translate into real liberation and empowerment for women.”
We call on our affiliated unions to take action on this 8 March and to send us photographs of the activities that you have carried out.