There is a Better Way

I’ve spent today at STUC Women’s Conference and have been impressed by the range of topics discussed.

Amongst a packed agenda there was a strong focus on the impact of the recession on women as workers and carers.

Guest speaker Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC argued that the employment squeeze was negatively impacting on trade union membership.

He cited recent EIS research which shows the benefits of union membership economically, such as increased productivity, lower rates of industrial tribunals and fewer injuries at work.

Excellent speeches followed from delegates debating the impact of the recession on:

  • women as freelance workers – an example was given of workers with caring responsibilities being let down badly, endangering their capacity to hold down a job and undermining family life
  • untrained staff, working to shorter timescales – an example was given where a staff members who have dropped their client while operating a hoist were simply told by the private company they worked for to put the client in bed and leave the house.

A motion highlighting the pressure on women workers with caring responsibilities was passed unanimously with Labour MSP Johann Lamont being quoted approvingly by one delegate when she argued “Caring for carers must be the best example of preventative spending”.

Baroness May Blood spoke of the need for women to join and get active in trade unions and to stand up for their rights. She gave a barnstorming speech ranging from her experience as a young mill worker, to being part of the Women’s Coalition in Northern Ireland, to becoming a Labour peer nearly 13 years ago.

She said that a measure of progress was the fact that this year three women were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Award. She finished with a call for action saying that there was much more work still to be done to advance women’s rights in the workplace.

Delegate after delegate talked about the reality for working women of Government cuts to services, cuts to pensions and the erosion of maternity rights. The rallying call of the day was There is a Better Way.