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Public transport woes in limelight at UN Womens Conference

FIRST Union Assistant General Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation Delegate Louisa Jones has addressed attendees at a forum for the United Nations at its 63rd Commission on the Status of Women.

The event is taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from the 11th to the 22nd March 2019. The conference seeks to increase discussions on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world are attending the session.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) represents over 18 million working women and men in all transport sectors around the world. It strives to improve opportunities for decent work and labour conditions.

The below is taken from Ms Jones speech to the UN commission.

Ms Jones says women are disproportionately affected by poverty with 70% of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty being women.
They are less likely to own private modes of transport and men in the household often have priority access so the accessibility and affordability of public transport disproportionately affects women.”

She says the ITF views three key components pertaining to how infrastructure is important for women.
“Firstly, there needs to be increased accessallowing women’s empowerment via progressive participation in economic and public life facilitates their engagement with a wide range of rights such as work, education, healthcare and political participation.”

Secondly, the creation of decent and secure work opportunities in the public transport sector that both attract and retain women and that include training for career progression that challenges segregation in the sector is a must. Transport can only be gender-responsive if there are women employed in the industry. For example, the informal sector does not offer the protection of secure employment on which women disproportionately rely on due to pregnancy, maternity and other care responsibilities.”

Thirdly, as women are most vulnerable to climate change and tend to have less access to resources for climate change adaption, Ms Jones says there is a need to increase the use of public transport in general to address the environmental concerns of the SDGs, and the climate emergency.
“There are big challenges to building sustainable infrastructure for women. Cities have been planned for by men for men. And whilst urban public transport plays an important role for women – as the majority of passengers and as workers in public transport – we know that it is not gender neutral, from an employment point of view but also from the values that are embedded in its structure and provision.”

In a New Zealand context:
She says increased privatisation of transport infrastructure, with an emphasis on profit, threatens to erode workers’ rights and user access.
Our bus services in Aotearoa New Zealand have been operated by the private sector since the neo liberal reforms of the 1980s. This has led to a steady decline in wages alongside worsening conditions of work. In our largest city public transport is no longer controlled directly by elected offices, but a council controlled organisation which is run by a group of unelected business people. These people are trained in and good at making fiscally efficient decisions but not in improving our social situation. In this environment decisions are made which degrade the service for financial benefit, society is poorer for it. The competitive tendering model (such as the Public Transport Operating Model or PTOM) rewards the worst, lowest paying employers with contracts and abandons bus operators who have fair employment standards.

As New Zealand moves toward being a country that includes and values everyone it is vital that New Zealand move away from a competitive tendering model where the very worst employers screw down wages and offer recklessly long working hours.”

Ms Jones says there’s hope for the future.
The ITF is working with the ITUC, mayors and city authorities, including in my city Auckland, to develop and implement plans for ambitious national government commitments to public transport with democratic unions, community participation and increased public ownership for a ‘Just Transition’ to zero emission transport and the formal sector. This must include decent work and progressive employment frameworks which promote gender equality and challenge gender occupational segregation.”
She says such changes as creating adverts and art that encourage more positive attitudes towards women and better lighting at stations are tangible changes that can attract more women to use public transport.

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