Interviews with three leading women in Accord about their journeys and highlights from the TUC Women's Conference.
Every year, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day give us an opportunity to look back on the contributions women have made to our society and our organisations, and to take stock of where we are now.
Three-quarters of Accord’s members are women, and we recognise the enormous contribution they make both to our union and to their workplaces. From ordinary members to lay reps to elected officials, women are rightly at the heart of everything our union does.
And there’s no doubt that women workers are better protected if they belong to a trade union. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was delivered off the back of a strike by women workers at the Ford factory in Dagenham.
Less than a decade later, when mostly South Asian women workers at the Grunwick photo processing plant stood together against low pay and degrading treatment, the trade union movement rallied around to show solidarity.
More recently, women trade unionists played a leading role in the #MeToo movement, calling out violence and discrimination in workplaces and working together to find solutions.
At Accord, we continue to work to deliver positive change for women. In recent years, working with and for women members, we’ve delivered improvements in a range of different areas.
We’ve worked with employers to tackle the cause of the gender pay gap, although there’s still a way to go. We’ve pushed for greater pay transparency to ensure that the issue of unequal pay can’t be swept under the rug. And when we have found cases of pay or pensions inequality, we’ve supported women members to challenge it.
We’ve increased the visibility of menopause in our workplaces by developing the Menopause Promise and training our own Menopause Advocates. And we’ve improved LBG’s wellbeing offer with a pilot that supplies free period products to colleagues.
This work has been led by our women members, reps and officials. So, to mark Women’s History Month, we’ve interviewed three leading women in the union about their journeys and the challenges we’re still fighting to overcome.
Accord is always looking for more women to take part in our democratic structures to help us protect women workers and achieve diverse and equal workplaces. If you’re interested in learning more, speak to your rep or get in touch with [email protected]
Delegates at the three-day conference, held at Congress House in London, discussed the cost-of-living crisis, gender pay gaps, job adverts, violence against women and football boots.
Paul Nowak gave his first speech to the women’s conference as TUC general secretary, where he quickly addressed the movements ‘legal responsibility and moral duty’ to tackle sexual harassment in workplaces – and in the movement too.
He said: “As a senior man in our movement, I want every woman to feel her union is a safe and inclusive place to be. That means acting now to tackle sexual harassment and bullying. It means addressing the cultures that enable sexual harassment and bullying. And it means believing, and empowering, the victims and survivors of abuse.”
Paul went on to discuss the TUC’s three key priorities to support women workers for the year ahead, with the first being to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. His second priority was to push back against attacks on the right to strike, saying the TUC will “stand by every worker who takes action regardless of legislation changes.” And the last priority was to secure political change.
Throughout the event there were debates, workshops and an international panel discussion on the impact of conflict on women and girls globally. Four members of Accord’s Principal Executive Council (PEC) also joined the sessions…
Attending an event such as Women’s TUC brings into sharp focus how much work Accord has done to improve the rights of its members. From improving maternity pay, to working with LBG to develop a menopause policy and roll out free sanitary products, we are streets ahead of many of our sister unions in these areas and we should be very proud of this. The speakers on the International Panel were inspirational and described the difficult and often dangerous situations they worked in. It was a timely reminder to us all how quickly things can change and legal rights can be eroded.Allison Howie
The Women's Conference was a great experience. The standout for me was when they held a Zoom call with women from Ukraine, Iraq and Turkey. They kindly shared their experiences with us. It was very moving to hear their stories and what they are still living through. It was also great to hear all the motions on such a varied amount of subjects; from sexual harassment all the way through to the menopause.Lisa Sullivan
I wasn’t sure what to expect at first – I was really nervous because I’d never been to a TUC conference or even been that far from home on my own. But, it really opened my eyes to what is actually going on in different workplaces and around the world. I really enjoyed myself, I learnt a lot and I’m already looking forward to the next one.Charli Web
It was a fantastic opportunity to hear how women across both the private and public sectors continue to strive for equal opportunities – from their health, working conditions, promotions, pensions and pay. It’s great to see that Accord is ahead of the agenda for our female workers in comparison to the majority of other unions and employers.Nicola Hunter