Barriers to Women’s Participation in the Community Sector

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2014 Community Service Group Conference
31 October 2013
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that women remain under-represented in the activist base within the community service group despite its workforce being predominantly female.

Despite the very positive measures within UNISON to promote women’s participation, there remain legacies and cultures which exclude women, including women from non-traditional union backgrounds, and particularly those working in the Community Sector where staff may have a strong sense of loyalty and/or duty to their employing organisation due to its strong ethos.

Conference recognises that there are particular barriers which may impact more on women activists:

a) The sharing of paid facility time has always been an issue of concern, and as employers are increasingly seeking to cut costs, this is likely to be an ongoing and worsening problem;

b) The fear that involvement in trade union activity will lead to discriminatory treatment by employers – in selection for redundancy, allocation of duties, and lack of flexibility – particularly essential for low paid women who may be juggling caring responsibilities with work, working for more than one employer or in more than one job;

c) The nature of many women’s work means that often colleagues are expected to cover for absence This can lead to resentment and peer pressure restricting women’s willingness to actively participate, or refusal by employers to allow time off as there is inadequate cover in place;

d) Home care commitments may conflict with union activities. Many women work below their skill-level to meet their home commitments, and trade union activism would be a further demand on an already full schedule.

Conference therefore calls on the service group executive to consider innovative ways to involve more women activists in the future, and to produce recommendations for branches on how this can be achieved. This should include:

i) Consideration of greater use of accessible technology, such as on-line forums, use of conference calling and Skype; and the use of rolling meetings

ii) More effective sharing of facility time, where this exists

iii) Promoting the new UNISON guidance for branches on negotiating facility time

iv) Negotiating with employers to ensure adequate cover is in place to enable participation in the union.