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“Empowering of TU Women as a Tool to Implement Decent Work Agenda”

23 January 2012: Following the PERC Women’s Committee program and action plan the PERC Women’s School was organized this year in Vilnius from 26 to 28 October 2011. The event is part of the ILO/ACTRAV Norwegian fund project and co-financed by the Belgium ACV/CSC. Around 50 trade union women from 24 countries in the PERC region were present in Vilnius.

The School was opened by the three presidents of the Lithuanian unions who stressed the importance of paying attention to the working women, the importance of having women in leadership position, equal treatment in favor of decent work. The LPSK president, Arturas Cerniauskas, mentioned that Lithuanian case is a special one as most of women are very active and the male population is less active mostly being present in politics and not in trade union leadership.

The representative of the Lithuanian Government, Roman Darulis, Minister of Social Security mentioned the preoccupation of the government in increasing participation of women in public life and the importance of equality issue. Women adapted faster to changing conditions in the labor market and the employability of women is higher than in other EU countries. Nevertheless women over 40 years have difficulties to find a job; life-long learning is not developing sufficiently, women are present in precarious work and more vulnerable, the possibilities to develop a carrier is reduced, life work balance is difficult to achieve, there is a certain salary gap between women and men ( 84% salary as compared with those of men), women many times work on jobs which do not have a proper value, are often given lower positions, they have lower qualifications that means lower competiveness. He also stressed the importance of existing stereotypes that men are bread winners and are more competitive and women more emotional. At the same time seldom young men go on paternity leave and women are taken the burden of child care. Lithuania has developed a general equality program and fourteen projects are run on fighting stereotypes and promote gender equality on the labor market. The Europe 2020 strategy stated that 75 % employment should be achieved and this target cannot be attained if not having an increase of women in jobs; unions should be more sensitive on women’s issues.

Danuta Wojdat presented the purpose and aims of the School: it has two parts: political part and teaching skills; information and technical tips.
Hege Hero, president of the PERC Women’s Committee presented the results of the meeting of the PERC Women’s Committee which took place before the School; challenges that women are facing the big one being the crisis and why the School is so important. Policy is about influence, if you do not have influence the result is not achieved; importance of things being done on national level; need for women networks in order to have synergy; loss of energy because of not being strategic; how to get better results; more focus on strategies; program based on ITUC program. She also mentioned the existing changes on labor codes especially in CEE and the attacks on trade unions

Ovidiu Jurca from the ILO office in Budapest stressed that work is not a commodity; the ILO remained the only hope for the workers. He explained the main pillars of the ILO and the fact that within the decent work agenda one of the main pillar is non-discrimination and equal treatment at work; within the planning for the next biennium there is a discussion on how to promote the equal treatment of women at the workplace; inside decent country plans in Moldova Ukraine, Balkan countries there is a separate chapter dedicated to the gender issue. He invited the organizations present to discuss the needs as concerns the ILO assistance.

Unfortunately he received no request for cooperation from unions yet.
He stressed the importance of empowering trade union women, the precarization of work and importance to have more women in leadership; the goal is to have employment, rule of law, decent payment and same working conditions, to have a strong social dialogue to find solutions to all problems; need for good labor agreements negotiated by expert persons who are aware of the place of women;

The Arab countries have the courage to react; do we have the courage in Europe? Do we know how to fight precarious work; the ILO has developed policies and regulations to combat precarious employment document and methods to fight precarious work.

In the memorandum of understanding with the UN women and ILO there is recognition of the necessity to promote labor standards at the level of ILO and regional contacts are foreseen with UN women to promote gender issues.

Grigor Gradev, the executive secretary of PERC mentioned the difficulties trade union world is facing: loss of members, collective bargaining weakening; challenges and possibilities for decent work and difficulty to see what the challenges are.

The world is not getting better, but worse; who is who in this game; what can be done about this; trade unions are too much engaged in projects and the relation with membership is weakening The problems are political, about the future of the system; EU is undermining the social Europe; who will create the jobs; training has no sense as far as there are no jobs; all things must be taken in relation with each other, either trade unions will face challenges or will disappear as actors.

There are five areas of work for PERC and ETUC: strengthen the structures; committees, economist networks, legal networks; all these structures must be efficient and effective.

There is everywhere an anti- union wave: in Greece the social dialogue is broken, new contracts are individual ones, the system is already changed; changes of code in Romania against the ILO criticism; Hungary and Slovak are the next countries to come.

Inequality is increasing: one per cent of world population is well and all the others are suffering; in all countries in Europe inequality is rising; there is an accumulation of inequalities; there is a clear threat to democracy.
As concerns the organizational development of unions; when labor markets are changing, unions must change also; they must sit and discuss seriously about the problems, talk about solidarity; groups of organizations must work together; there is a need for reduced costs and joint work.

Then next day the experts presented the purpose of training and objectives: there are still barriers to women greater participation in trade unions; family responsibilities are main barriers to this; there is still a lack of interest from the part of female groups considering that the trade union job does not feet in their agenda; they still have a passive attitude; now there is harder work with the crisis, less time for other issues trade union work included; at the same time maybe trade unions are not welcoming trade union women members.

At the same time it is important to have women in leadership position; there are a lot of barriers to this: to see with women in power what is their situation; election process in trade unions- how many have inclusive actions; if there is enough support; if there is a debate in unions about electing women; difficulties in unions; problem of mentoring to go in leadership position; decision on who is elected taken behind the doors; personal attacks mainly on women; references on life time choices;
As concerns the trade union culture : there is often a male style of leadership; lack of solidarity between women; it’s important to know if women have support and how they support the other women; if women have difficulties to organize women members; do they have equal rights, do they have equal power.

The School continued with working groups divided on language criteria: 2 Russian speaking groups; 2 English speaking groups and BSC group. The working groups have been asked to discuss and prepare a list of possible barriers existing for women’s participation in trade union work and leadership.

The result of the working groups were gathered in a common list with possible barriers: stereotypes and family; lack of education; not enough information on how to fight for their rights and on work of trade unions and their role; fear to lose job because of trade union work; not enough motivation for women membership; trade union culture of not welcoming women members and lack of support in confederations; lack of gender sensitive budgets in unions

Then the working groups have been asked to debate on a selected barrier and find possible solutions:

Two Russian speaking groups have been asked to work on lack of knowledge and stereotypes; the English speaking group on trade union structure and functioning and the Balkan group on lack of trade union policy and its implementation.

Conclusion working groups: there is a need for a codex of trade union democracy; to use the mass media technology to teach women; to cooperate with NGOs and political parties; to have new laws on gender equality as the existing laws are not concrete enough; the other working groups considered that there should be a balanced gender representation, that men should be prepared for women in leadership; need for concrete actions to change the structures; need for gender equality and gender programs; more involvement in collective bargaining; the last group considered that statutes of unions need to be changed in the direction of more representation of women in unions and leadership positions.
The next group work had as its purpose to debate on the need for different policy documents; survey for working women, trade union activists and managers, preparation of questionnaires. The purpose of questionnaires has been explained and also the necessary tips in creating it.

The group work concentrated on brainstorming about the theme of questionnaire. Each group created its own questionnaire on representation of women in trade unions. Special accent has been put on what is to be changed in unions and how to focus on active participation of women in trade union work.

The next theme for group work was writing internal policy equality policy; Danuta Wojdat presented this issue stressing the importance of taking care of the format of policy documents, language which should be simple; principles should be clearly stated, clear responsibilities, action plan should be simple, measurable goals, ways of distribution, approval procedure to be taken into consideration, body that has to approve, link with policy of ITUC.

The working groups had to examine a preliminary prepared policy documents and express their opinion on this. The group working on a document on fighting discrimination considered that it lacks clarity, long sentences; mostly impossible to understand; goal is good; topic is important; weakness- length of the sentences; ideas difficult to understand; some things must be eliminated; unnecessary expressions; other working group considered that the analyzed document has no specific action plan, that there is no monitoring and evaluation, etc. The conclusion was that a lot of elaborated documents can be improved especially as concerns language and clarity.

The last work in groups concentrated on the following questions: what we do at home? What ideas from the School can we take at home? The participants decided to make a survey or strategic document on national level in the following 6 months

At the end of the session Maurizio Mosca, gender expert from the EIGE in Vilnius presented the work of the Gender Institute: it’s the first year of operation (opening in June 2010) based in EU agencies in each member state to support the policy making process by providing data information and research; to centralize the existing data and information and put a single platform for citizens and institutions. The main role of EIGE is making equality between men and women a reality for Europeans; competence center for gender equality and the core work: collect information, study, and research; deliver info in a coherent way. He referred also to the European Commission strategy for equality between women and men for 2010 – 2015. Key objectives are: equal economic independence, equal pay and equal work; equality in decision making, dignity, integrity, end gender based violence; gender equality in external actions.

The Beijing platform for action has precise targets and follows up the progress of member states in area of gender equality, review and evaluates the progress.

There is already done a report on reconciliation; study to review the indicators; study and collection of good practices; the topic chosen is domestic violence. The future Denmark presidency will concentrate on women and environment and participation in decision making process.
Concerning the EU gender equality index they do not have the concrete support of member states; but they will provide effective data.
The EIGE tries to develop methodology- strategy to support member states when implementing gender strategies; conferences, studies; peer view approach; try to increase effectiveness of national policies. They develop also a resource and documentation center, electronic library; develop technical instruments; support the European network on gender equality as a platform of online debates, awareness raising, exchange of experience/knowledge; want to bring people together to facilitate the networking, identify speakers, experts.

Studies that will soon appear are on: masculinity, trans- sexuality, domestic violence, gender training; good practices in gender mainstreaming.
The EIGE has an expert forum; social partners (ETUC) are included.

On 28 October the Conference of the Women’s Network took place.
The Conference presented the following proposal of activities: more training on women and leadership; creation of a web site for the network; continuation on work for the women in union’s representativity report.
The structural subject was debated: until now the network had six sub regions and question was if there still should be the same sub regions: the network has North Europe, Baltic, Central East and South Europe and Caucasus and Central Asia with Turkey.

The following point discussed was the terms of reference of the network and the need to put together some rules on the way of work and start working on a proposal for the terms of reference for the network.
The request to PERC Women’s Committee was to include a 50% participation of women and men in each training activity.

PERC secretariat was asked to give more attention to building the skills/ how to negotiate; to the question of information and media campaigns.
The working groups were asked to come with concrete proposals as concerns the work of the network and activities of PERC WC and PERC as such.

The Balkan group proposed the reduction of sub regions in the network and two representatives of the Balkan on the PERC Women’s Committee; training for young women in leadership; special training for women leaders; relations with mass media; activities to be organized jointly with ILO Turin.
English speaking group: interest for labor regulation in all Europe; seminar/ survey to compare labor regulation in different countries; regulation work time; regulation on women, social dialogue and collective bargaining; more visibility, strong campaigns, manifestations; more solidarity; quickly react as PERC ; call attention on the problems as high corruption; PERC Women’s Committee to react quickly on daily events.

Danuta Wojdat mentioned the importance of gender missions; the leaders of confederations are impressed with participation of committee members; concerning research on labor laws, there are plenty of them, the problem is how it is done in practice.

Baltic group: proposal to PERC to follow up the impact and support for the rights of women on national level; ask for solidarity; PERC Women’s Committee is asked to initiate projects for training in national trade union organizations; training on leadership skills; PERC to assist the organizations to get the information about the Norwegian Fund on decent work; PERC to assist with expertise; people trained on project making.

Hege Hero, the president of the PERC Women’s Committee informed the conference that PERC secretariat will prepare the information concerning the Norwegian Fund and will assist organizations that would like to apply.
NIS group: request for training on how to get additional funds/resources as without funding it is not possible to have activities; include NIS in projects/ countries that are out of the EU; seminar on negotiating skills with foreign owners in multinational companies; what methods to apply as 80 % of women working in this companies; training more women leaders in trade unions and especially young women.

The recommendations and proposal made will be taken forward to the PERC Women’s Committee for further decision and action.

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Women’s Committee , Europe , Gender equality policy
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