Join a union: the best way to win decent pay rises and pay transparency

International Women’s Day grew from a textile workers demonstration on New York’s Lower East Side, part of those women workers’ struggle for their rights. The Day was launched In 1910 at the 2nd International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen. It was first celebrated in 1911 by millions of workers in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

International Women’s Day is a product of the socialist labour movement. Union membership is still the best defence against discrimination at work and in society as a whole. At a time when workers’ rights and wages are being eroded throughout the world at an alarming rate, the fight for the rights of all workers, regardless of sex, nationality, ethnicity, colour or creed, to join and be represented by a trade union is more urgent than ever.

We are pleased to reprint on these pages some messages from the global union movement on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017.

The International Union of Foodworkers (IUF)

Winning Safety, Security and Equality at Work

Women continue to suffer systematic discrimination concerning remuneration, access to jobs, social security, unpaid household and care work.

Women at Work – Trends 2016, a recent ILO report, concludes that in the absence of specific policy measures to address gender-based discrimination, it will take another 70 years to close the gender pay gap. The internationally recognized principles of equal pay for work of equal value (ILO Convention 100, adopted in 1951) and of non-discrimination in employment (ILO Convention 111, adopted in 1960) have been transposed into national legislation in at least 173 countries but still not put into practice. Unions therefore play a crucial role.

Around the world, the IUF and its affiliates are fighting for More Women – More Power -Breaking down barriers, winning safety, security & equality at work.

The Pakistan Food Workers’ Union has shown that it is possible to negotiate for more and better jobs for women as well as child care facilities even in sectors that have traditionally been reserved for male workers. The Indian Self Employed Women’s Association has successfully negotiated access to social security for 100 000 of their members in the informal economy. IUF affiliates in French speaking West Africa are discussing with their national social security institutions the inclusion of domestic and informal economy workers in national social security schemes. Coordinated action by IUF affiliates has improved respect for maternity and parental rights in many countries. In Latin America women coordinators of regional company networks are building the bargaining agenda for women workers. The IUF global housekeeping initiative is gaining increased visibility, organization and recognition of the female labour force in the hotel sector.

The IUF has taken the struggle against sexual harassment and gender-based violence into all IUF regions. In January 2016 the IUF signed a joint commitment with Unilever to prevent and combat sexual harassment. The agreement recognizes the particular vulnerability of women in precarious forms of employment.

IUF cases studies on gender based violence prepared for the ILO expert meeting on violence and harassment highlighted the economic vulnerability that makes it difficult for women to escape from domestic violence as well as work place violence.

Against the impunity of widespread feminicide in Latin America, the IUF regional women’s committee CLAMU has joined the movement “Ni Una Menos” and in the struggle against gender based violence CLAMU established the Observatory on workplace violence in memory of Honduran activist Berta Caceres murdered a year ago this month.

UNI Europa

A pay rise for women would narrow the gender pay gap, and boost the economy by giving millions of working women more money to spend.

UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig said: “UNI Europa is a 100% committed to closing the gender pay gap – and we are doing our share with the campaign, to increase women representation in all UNI structures and decision making bodies by 40%.

“We also put a particular focus on exploring the consequences of digitalisation which hits service sector workers particularly hard, especially those in the mid-skill and mid-salary range, and a lot of whom are women. For us, the key to eliminating the gender pay gap (and any pay gap for that matter) lies in collective bargaining and trade union membership, with many studies showing that union members are better paid than those workers who are not organised.” A pay rise that narrows and ultimately eliminate the pay gap between women and men could be achieved by

  • Raising wages for cleaners, catering staff, carers, cashiers and clerks – jobs where the majority of workers are women. Women make up over 80% of the workforce workers in sectors such as personal care workers, cleaners and helpers, general and keyboard clerks, and health associate professionals;
  • A flat rate increase in wages (as opposed to an undifferentiated % increase which maintains existing pay inequalities);
  • Job evaluations: to review the grading of jobs mainly carried out by women and upgrade them to the pay of similar jobs mainly carried out by men;
  • Pay transparency: where pay is not collectively bargained, pay increases are not transparent and men usually negotiate higher increases than women;
  • Women joining a trade union – the wage gap among union members is less than half of the wage gap among non-union workers.

“The gender pay gap is painful and unjust” said Montserrat Mir, Confederal Secretary at the ETUC, “and carries a high human and economic cost. Unless action is taken to speed up equal pay, women will have to wait over 70 years to be paid the same as men. Equal pay would be the greatest economic stimulus package that Europe has ever seen, and lift millions of women out of poverty.”

“Lower pay also means lower pensions. By narrowing the gender pay gap, we would also help narrow the gender pension gap which condemns many women to poverty in old age. By joining a trade union women and men can fight for fairer pay and against the gender pay gap, collective bargaining is the best way to achieve decent pay rises and pay transparency.”

On average in Europe women earn 17 per cent less than men. One reason is that women find it harder to reconcile work and family obligations. As a result, part-time work, mini jobs and career breaks are more common for women, and have a direct impact on wages.

The ETUC has launched a campaign ‘Europe needs a pay rise’ calling for pay rises for workers across Europe, and for the closing of unjustified pay gaps including the gender pay gap.

Building and Wood Worker’s International

On International Women’s Day: High time to care: if women stop, the world stops!

Women’s work is fundamental to the political, economic, and social fabric of the world: As active workers in many sectors including the industries BWI represents, women’s work is critical and a driving force to keep the world moving. If women stop, the world stops.

On International Women’s Day, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) celebrates the valuable work of all women in the paid and unpaid economy and calls for global action to stop misogynist threats, close the gender pay gap, fight for gender inequality and to stop the attack on women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights.

BWI’s 2017 Congress’ theme is Amandla: Power to the People, and on this special day BWI celebrates the power of women all over the world.

BWI also supports the global campaign on an International Convention to stop Gender-based Violence at Work. BWI’s affiliates are working extensively on the ground to bring about societal changes that put the value of women’s work at its place.

The BWI along with millions of women will be marching, organizing, campaigning, and mobilizing on March 8 in various parts of the world to show the important role women play in keeping the world running.

Share your actions on March 8th #proudtobeafeminist; #proudofmyunion #AmandlaBWI #Powertothewomen

If women stop, the world stops and it is high time to care.

The International Federation of Journalists

Journalists around the world will take part in a global day of action to stand up for women workers’ rights on 8th March  to tackle the gender pay gap, eradicate media sexism and stop gender-based violence in newsrooms and workplaces.

Members of IFJ – affiliated unions and associations will use International Women’s Day to highlight key challenges facing women journalists in every continent.

As part of the UN’s International Women’s Day – “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”– IFJ affiliates will be demanding:

  • Equal access to leading newsroom positions for women and men
  • Closing the gender pay gap in journalism
  • Strengthening equal treatment for all workers regardless of gender
  • Developing and implementing gender equality policies in the newsrooms
  • Securing fair gender portrayal in news content

All journalists can take part by:

IFJ Gender Council co-chair Mindy Ran, writing on the IFJ’s website said: “At a time when tens of thousands of women journalists are facing threats, intimidation, harassment, violence and online and physical abuse the need for action could not be greater.”

For female journalists, this rise of “acceptable” misogyny – as evidenced by the recent loss of legislation against domestic violence in several countries – is colliding with rising threats to press freedom. As history has shown, these sorts of threats to the press usually lead to increases of violence. And, as with other forms of violence, female journalists may increasingly find themselves in the crosshairs.

“In these shifting times, it is more essential than ever to speak out – saying “no rolling back on women’s rights.”

More details

UN Women

ILO report on Women at Work

IUF global housekeeping initiative

IUF joint commitment with Unilever against sexual harassment

UITA: Latin American Observatory on workplace violence (CLAMU) – in Spanish

UNI Europa campaign

BWI website

Berta Calceres (Wikipedia)

IFJ No roll back on rights

IFJ Women’s Day campaigning material

IFJ gender equality report

Eurostat: Percentage of female employees by top 30 occupations

Eurostat: Best and lowest paying industries

ETUC Pay Rise campaign #HerPayRise #OurPayRise

ETUC Study “Bargaining for Equality”


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Gary Herman

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