Wednesday, September 26, 2007

International Trade Union Conference of Working Women

  • World Federation of Trade Unions


  • September 13 and 14 2007, Brussels Belgium

    Final Declaration

  • The Conference on Working Women organized by the World Federation of Trade Unions was held in Brussels from September 13th to 14th 2007 and was attended by 95 delegates from 62 countries representing 80 trade union organizations. During two days participants exchanged about the situation of working women in their respective countries and regions, recognizing that there had been "some progress" only for rich and affluent sections among them, leaving the large mass of women for whom there are still many problems remaining unresolved and that there are many obstacles and gaps in terms of gender equality. The conference recognized,
    * that the international finance capital is on offensive through its instruments to circumvent the interests of the workers-farmers and other poor and vulnerary sections of the developing economies and the interests of labour and other weaker and vulnerable sections in the developed world as well. The process of exclusion is impacting women the most.
    * That the attempts of the Multinational Corporations/ Transnations Corporations to appropriate and control the natural resources, the small businesses and enterprises, the farming lands, the knowledge base of diverse societies in various countries are aggressively being pursued and the women are bearing the main brunt of these policies.
    * That we characterize the process being imposed as Capitalist Globalisation, and it has de-humanising impact on the society.
    * That the imperialist wars have been imposed on Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon bleeding the mass of people, specially bringing untold miseries on women and children. The people in the Palestine and occupied territories in the Arab World continue to suffer violence and aggression at the hands of Israeli regime with backing from US Administration. The US administration continues to declare any country at its will 'a rogue' and decides its target for ruination.
    * That the militarization, aggression, threat of aggression are continued as matter of policy to pursue the economic exploitation and plunder of nations, regions and the people at large.
    * That the anti-labour policies at international, regional and national levels are deepening the inequalities and there has been a growing gap between rich and poor countries as well as between regions, even within countries and the women have been the most affected group.
    * Today 1.2 billion of the world's 2.9 billion workers are women (40%).
    * While women are massively moving into the labor market, more and more women are being pushed into informal/unorganized/contract/casual/daily labour in indecent work conditions with very low wages/earnings. They are integrated under the worse conditions with low payment and low working status remaining at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy and they also tend to have unsafe working conditions, something that serves as tool for the attack against labor rights.
    * Poverty is increasingly feminized. Women are 60 % of the world's working poor people.
    * More women than ever before are unemployed (81.8 million). They are mostly stuck in low productivity jobs such as agriculture, the field of services and the informal sector.
    * Women are submitted to intense discrimination and they are paid lower salaries than men even for the same job. Globally,women earn 20-30 % less than men.
    * Maternity protection for vast numbers of working women is barely guaranteed and working women who become pregnant are faced with the threat of loosing their jobs, suspended earnings and increased health risks due to inadequate working conditions.
    * Women are increasingly migrating, both legally and illegally, seeking for better employment. They represent almost 50% of all international immigrants and they are among the most vulnerable group exposed to exploitation and abuse.
    * Women are being trafficked for prostitution and leisure including young girls between the ages 7 year to 14 years. This is happening within the countries and across the borders.
    * The child labour and child abuse are on rise, contrary to the claims at various levels.
    * The state has been continuously withdrawing from providing education, health, sanitation, drinking water, rations to poor at cheap rates, housing for poor etc.
    * The reports of suicides by farmers due to deepening agrarian crises and those of unemployed has been phenomenon in various countries.
    * Women participation in trade unions organizations and collective bargaining process is still insufficient in relation to their presence in the labor market. The participants were of the views:
    * That in contrast to this situation, the socialist societies did succeed in solving the immense problems of unemployment and homelessness, the illiteracy and health, the sanitation services and safe drinking water and in meeting the minimum basic needs of food and clothings in their respective countries.
  • * That those of the societies which faced reversal from the socialist economies have once again plunged into the cycle of unemployment, homelessness, prostitution, withdrawal of child care services which are vital for working women, expensive education and health depriving specially the girls and women from these basic rights which they once enjoyed.
    The participants recognized that in order to fight against women discrimination it is necessary to create just societies in which human beings may be the centerpiece of developmental policies and all progressive forces may fight for a better world. For a world without exploitation of person by person.The participants also recognized that the workplace is a strategic space in order to create proper respect for gender equality. Trade unions are worker's organizations created to protect and improve workers' social and economic situation by the way of collective bargaining and mobilizations for the benefit of both genders; trade unions can also demand government policies and legislations related to women's equality issues. The Conference examined some experiences, ideas and initiatives introduced by trade unionists in terms of promoting policies geared towards enhancing the working conditions and socioeconomic rights of working women, and as the result of this exchange they agreed:
  • * The constitution of a permanent WFTU Working Committee composed of members representing different regions, for the purpose of systematically examining all aspects related to the problems faced by working women. * To develop trade union skills and training programs on gender equality at the workplace, such as seminars on international laws for the protecting and expanding the rights of working women and how these laws can affect legal frameworks, policies, activities and campaigns at the national level. * To strengthen the capacity of class-oriented trade unions so as to include gender issues in their collective bargaining, dialogue and trade union policies as well as to examine the achieved progress.
  • * To inform working women about their legitimate rights and help them assure those rights, including legal assistance when presenting claims on violations of the working women's rights and in the supervision of ILO Conventions. * To promote the ratification and implementation of labor standards relevant to gender equality, particularly the No. 100 on equal remuneration, No.111 on non discrimination in employment and occupation, No.156 on workers with family responsibilities, No.183 on maternity protection, convention on home based workers and others conventions. * To promote the occupational, health and safety measures for the women workers. * To struggle for increase of women's participation in trade unions, and also their elections as trade union leaders.
  • * To urge the unions to have gender-equality as one of the subject in Trade Union education programme.
  • * To urge the unions to involve women trade union leaders also in negotiations at various levels.
  • * To look for innovative ways to reach and organize women workers outside the formal workplace who works in precarious conditions.
  • * To develop campaigns for equal pay, equality of gender in workplace and in society specially during May Day activities, the International Women's Day and in the framework of other important Conferences and Congress.
  • * To plan activities for observing proposed international year 2009 by UN for women and work to have active trade union roles in its observance.
  • * To make efforts in order to identify and fight against sexual harassment or violence against women and to seek legislation on the subject matter in respective countries.
  • * To create an internet network among all the participants in the Conference for the further exchange of information, experiences and initiatives.
  • * To create alliances and close relations with the WIDF and other women's organizations, the WFDY and other movements, both national and international.
  • * To organize working women's conference at regional and national levels regularly, to provide women with a space to raise their concerns and for trade unions to adopt concrete policies, actions and results on gender equality.
  • * To increase our solidarity actions in strengthening the struggles of various trade unions and groups of people for women workers' rights.
  • * To bring out an e-Bulletin for exchange of experiences, for expressing solidarity with fighting women workers, to expose the discriminations and violations of women's rights across the globe.
  • * To fight back resolutely and work for elimination of child labour practices.
  • * To fight for full employment, dignified wages and work conditions, right to education and health. We call upon to all women militants of the world to act jointly with men inside trade unions. To resist the capitalist globalisation, imperialist wars, destruction of environment. To demand trade union and democratic freedoms. We denounce the attacks of the capital, the corporates, the cartels on the rights of unions and violations of labour rights. We resolve firmly that we would increase our initiative of solidarity with fighting unions and people and strengthen our international solidarity. We address a call to strengthen the WFTU in the new course which started in its 15th Congress in Havana Cuba. We believe that the world working class needs a class oriented trade union movement, democratic, militant and modern, independent from transnationals and the capital.

    Brussels, 14th September 2007

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