Conference agrees the place for women is in a union

Conference debates the impact of austerity on women. Photo: Marcus Rose / Workers' Photos

Conference debates the impact of austerity on women. Photo: Marcus Rose / Workers’ Photos

Women are being particularly badly hit by the austerity agenda, and UNISON’s conference debated a range of motions on the issue yesterday afternoon, mandating a number of actions to tackle the issue.

Delegates agreed that women need to be in a union and that UNISON would build a campaign to reach out to women to bring them into the union.

Moving that motion, Jane Boswell from Yorkshire and Humberside told delegates: “The facts leave us in no doubt that this ConDem government has had it in for women from the start.

“Whenever you look at their so-called austerity polices, it’s clear they’ve had it in for women since the start.”

She talked of the real risk for workers who could, if the cuts and the pay freezes continue, be plunged into the sort of poverty that could even see them lose their homes.

Rena Wood for the executive said that a “civilised society was judged by how it treated its citizens”.

She said that the government knew exactly what it was doing and exactly how its actions would affect women.

And she said that it was “absolutely vital that we increase the membership within our branches and within the union”.

Ms Wood reminded delegates that we need to remember and relearn the idea of collectivism.

It was pointed out that one of the major impacts on women of the austerity ideology has been the damage done by the massive cuts to services that support the victims of domestic violence.

Liz from the South West stressed the problems that have been caused for older women by austerity.

“Destitution and poverty are no way to spend the next two, three or four decades of your life,” she said of women pensioners, who are suffering greatly as a result of the cuts.

And in terms of the union’s work, “please use older members,” she pleaded. “This is an issue for all of us.”

Dierdre Costigan for the national LGBT committee pointed out that the ‘invisibility’ of some LGBT women can leave employers and service providers thinking that they don’t exist, either as service users or as employees, which increases their vulnerability to feeling the impact of austerity.

“Watch out Tory boys – the gloves are off and the women are coming to get you,” she declared, to applause.

On behalf of the national Black members’ committee, Bev Miller said that, while it’s women that are paying the greater cost, Black women are paying a disproportionate price – not least in terms of losing their jobs.

Chris Russell from Somerset revealed that research showed that being poor in the UK is comparable to being poor in the former Soviet Union, which is particularly disgraceful in one of the richest nations on Earth.

Emma Hoddinott from North Yorkshire told delegates that, last year, when an officer was trying to find a safe place for a women and two children who were at risk from domestic violence, she couldn’t even find a bed in Yorkshire – the nearest was in Scotland.

Conference agreed to a campaign to raise awareness of women’s place within the union.

Key issue: Women and public spending cuts

Women in UNISON