In July, I spoke at an event organised by Islington Labour Party women’s forum, called ‘Keeping women and girls safe in Islington’. There were various speakers from community organisations, the council and the police, plus workshops on domestic abuse, sexual harassment, hate crime, gangs and bullying. My job was to speak about harassment and violence against women on public transport.
ETF Womens Committee
RMT's delegation to the European Transport workers' Federation Women's Conference comprised Mary Jane Herbison, Michelle Rodgers, Lorna Tooley and Janine Booth. The conference was, unfortunately, squeezed into a short time on a single day. It still managed to do its business and hear some interesting and relevant contributions.
Report on the ETF Women's Committee's work 2013-17
- France - Women trade unionists have been concentrating on increasing women's involvement in the unions, and on campaigning against violence against women. At Gare du Nord railway station, African women cleaners are often sexually assaulted by male bosses. Some men say that it does not matter, that women are making it up, or that they 'have a chip on their shoulder'.
- Italy - There is very good legislation on women's rights - for example on maternity - but the economic and cultural situation means that women are still disadvantaged. Italy has the lowest rate of women's employment in Europe, and needs investment in public services and industries to create jobs for women. As the government cuts welfare services, it relies on women to act as unpaid carers.
- Belgium - In the Port of Antwerp, an agreement has been signed by the union and the employer regarding women's employment on the docks. this emphasises equal recruitment policies rather than quotas. But the employers need challenging to ensure that they abide by the agreement.
- Netherlands - Some men - even some union men - say that women who work on the docks are taking men's jobs. And they say that if you do a 'man's job' then you must go along with 'men's humour' ie. sexist banter. As a minority, women are abused, whether through 'jokes' or touching. The solution is not new laws but the enforcement of existing laws, but the Inspectorate is understaffed. Migrant women workers are taken on in jobs with only a few hours work, and then told that they must give sexual favours to get more work. Women are not confident to complain about abuse, so the union is using organisers from other countries to speak to women in their own language.
- UK - I reported on the ScotRail victory and ongoing fight to defend guards' jobs; the abuse of women cleaners; the impact of ticket office clsures and de-staffing of stations.
- Many countries - A recurring theme in reports from the various countries is that European Union legislation is useful, but that it needs to be monitored and implemented, with sanctions against companies that do not abdie by gender equality policies. Employers find ways around legislation, so legislation is not enough.
Jean-Louis Colson (on the right of the photo) from DG-MOVE - the European Commission's Directorate General on transport - outlined the Commission's work on women and transport, and the consultation it is currently running.
For the Commission, the main 'challenge' is that not enough women work in transport. Only 22% of transport workers are women, across all 28 EU member stations (the Commission's document states that "22% of women work in the transport sector" but this is incorrect; the statistic is as I give it here). It is even more unbalanced in certain transport sectors: road and rail workforces are only 14% women; air transport is a bit better, with 38% women. Jobs within transport are also unbalanced: in the rail industry, 60% of human resources staff are women, but only 3% of drivers.
Daniela Zlatova of Bulgarian transport trade union FTTUB gave an impressive account of the union's efforts and achievements in involving women.
- The opening address stressed the importance of women workers organising in a male-dominated industry and the context of women's struggles in a time of austerity and terrorism.
- There was a minute’s silence for the victims of terror attacks.
- ATU (Romanian union federation) President expressed his support for women's representation in trade unions, describing this as a hard-fought battle that was yet to be fully won.
- Summary of ETF Women’s work over last few years: training, campaigns, organising women transport workers.
WHAT IS THE ETF?
The European Transport Workers’ Federation, linking transport trade unions across Europe. RMT is one of several UK affiliates.
Its Women’s Committee includes nominees from various countries and sectors. I am a member of the Committee for the term 2013-2017.
PRIORITY CAMPAIGN 1 – VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN TRANSPORT WORKERS