Unions Challenged on Equality for Women
Unions need to put issues affecting women workers at the top of the agenda and make them core union business, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont said today.
Carol Beaumont laid down the challenge at the opening of the CTU Biennial Women's Conference in Wellington today.
Women made up the majority of union members yet were still not fairly represented at all levels of the union movement just like they were not fairly represented throughout the workforce, in business or political life, she said.
"It's not just about having women in the most senior positions. Real power in unions is when the issues affecting women workers are core union business and hit the top of the agenda and where we can make real change in those issues."
There were few issues that were only women's issues, but there were many which affected more women than men such as low pay, work-life balance and pay and employment equity.
Unions' focus on economic and social development through building a high skill, high value economy would not succeed if inequalities persisted between women and men, Carol Beaumont said.
"How can we build a high skill economy when many part-time workers - mainly women - have limited access to training opportunities, when women's opportunities to study are limited by high levels of unpaid caring work, and when many industries or occupations where women are concentrated have fewer formal training opportunities?"
Carol Beaumont paid tribute to Sonja Davies, who dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women and working people.
"Sonja said of her early years in the trade union movement that 'when women got up to speak ... the men all got up to read their newspapers or have a beer'.
"Unions have come a long way since then, but there is still a road ahead of us to fulfil Sonja's dream of equality," Carol Beaumont said.