From 2007, the socialist government introduced equality legislation and a framework to demand action against sexism and harassment. But since then, the situation has been worsened by economic crisis, with equalities driven off the agenda, curbs on collective bargaining, crèches closed, and equality plans dropped.
There has been a “dualisation of the labour market”, a split between secure workers and precarious workers, who are harder to unionise.
Unions need to fight the proposed TTIP, which will treat multinationals as though they were states.
“Nationalism is rearing its head; we need to protect our class consciousness and oppose nationalism in the unions.”
There has been an attack on abortion rights, trying to restrict the grounds on which women can obtain an abortion – “the unions are fighting this attack, but they need to fight harder”. Fifty women have been killed so far this year by domestic violence.
The unions’ main focus is on the Parliamentary election next year.
There have been three national elections this year, with only 30% turnout, and a right-wing government elected.
Women workers have lost a lot of rights over the last 4-5 years.
The union is organising a campaigning day against violence.
Unions are focusing on campaigning against cuts. There will be a national demonstration on 15 December. The government is trying to raise the pension age.
The pension age is 63, but women’s pensions are low. Parents are entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave plus four months parental leave if both parents take leave and share childcare.
Unions consulted members about pay; members want a pay rise of 6% with a minimum 100 Euro per month ie. Workers want to prioritise rises for the low-paid.
The unions are looking at the effect of shiftwork on health and work-life balance. They are also considering how to get more women into technical jobs, including through schools and recruitment fairs.
I reported on issues including threats to ticket offices and guards; our campaigning against harassment and violence; and organising cleaners
Colette Parsons (Unite) reported on union activity at Manchester Airport, where she is involved in organising a roadshow around the workplace promoting trade union especially to young workers and women, emphasising that you do not need any qualification or length of service to become a rep.
The far right is pressing an ‘immigration initiative’, trying to restrict immigration of skilled workers even though there is a shortage. The right wing is also campaigning for a new motorway – the unions are campaigning against this, instead demanding the transportation of freight by rail.
The government is proposing to increasing the pension age for women from 60 to 65 (equal to men) – and then in future to 70!
There will be a national demonstration in Berne on 7 March 2015.
ITF Arab World Women’s Committee
ITF Women Transport Workers’ Co-ordinator Alison McGarry told us about the work of the ITF’s Arab World Women’s Committee, which include women transport trade unionists from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Palestine, Iraq and other countries. Women are taking the lead in fighting against the rollback of the social state.
Arab women workers face similar issues to European women workers: precarious work, sexual harassment, local of women in trade union leadership positions (even government and employers do better than trade unions in this).
Although the Arab World Women’s Committee had not formally discussed the ISIS attack on Kobane, there was informal discussion on solidarity with the Kurds.
Sector Report – Civil aviation
The growth of low-fare airlines has created problems for women workers: falling safety standards, harsh discipline, fear of reporting problems.