In 2016, encouraging more women trade unionists to become active and to talk about the issues they faced was one of the many goals the branch set. International Women’s Day was 8th March and in 2016, the branch celebrated by arranging a stall in the foyer of the Civic Centre that raised awareness of sexism in the workplace. Marking the day was very important for UNISON, as General Secretary Dave Prentis noted:
Our union will always stand up and speak out on pay, on justice, on representation and on violence against women. That’s a message that isn’t simply for International Women’s Day – it’s a message that must run through our union every single day. And it’s one that we spread not only because our membership is predominantly female, but because it’s at the foundation of what trade unions are for.
The branch also sent a delegation to the Million Women Rise march, which is celebrating its tenth year. This annual demonstration calls for an end to male violence against women. UNISON believes that the distinction between work and home life is not as neat as many would like to believe. It’s not always possible to separate the two, meaning that male violence against women is a work health and safety – and hence a trade union - issue. This is why the branch also marked White Ribbon Day in November
Hayley Garner explained:
The issues women face in the workplace are not strictly limited to maternity and equal pay issues, though they are some of our biggest challenges. Domestic and gendered violence affects women in the workplace as much as it does at home and we must understand how this affects the industrial issues we look to solve.
This work is paying dividends. Two new reps from the branch attended the UNISON Women’s Conference in 2016, a space where women trade unionists can organise to make sure that their concerns are represented at the highest level within the union. Southampton District branch hope that this work to make space for all voices – not only of female members but members with disabilities, of varying ethnicities and all sexualities – will continue to in 2017.
Make sure your voice is heard: get active in UNISON.