12.5% of the membership, 0% of the leadership

Submitted by Matthew on 26 March, 2014 - 2:54

The Women’s Conference of transport union RMT, held on 7-8 March in Glasgow, saw a new determination to campaign against sexism and for women workers’ rights and to tackle the under-representation of women within the union.

Guest speakers included North Ayrshire and Arran Labour MP (and RMT Parliamentary group member) Katy Clark and Scottish TUC Assistant Secretary (and former railworker and RMT activist) Ann Henderson.

The conference passed a resolution noting that next year marks 100 years since the first woman joined RMT’s predecessor the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), and calling on the union to organise centenary events. A century on, women are 12.5% of the union’s membership but 0% of its national leadership, as all RMT’s officers and national executive members are men.

The union’s current internal structures review provides an opportunity to address this, and delegates pledged to propose to their branches action to secure representation for women.

The Conference passed four other resolutions:

• giving factual information about domestic violence in order to expose common myths and challenge victim-blaming, and asking the union to train representatives on the issue;

• on “distressing and isolating” sexual assault and harassment at work, asserting that “RMT should be able to offer the best possible support for women in these situations and should try to tackle the culture where this behaviour arises”;

• demanding improved maternity and parental leave;

• expressing opposition to the publication on the union’s website of a poster advertising a charity fundraising event that included the sexist portrayal of a bikini-clad “ring girl”. 

Conference delegates were excited and inspired by presentations from rank-and-file delegates about international campaigns: Becky Crocker and Christine Willett had attended the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Women’s Conference in New Delhi.

Janine Booth reported on the work of the European Transport Workers’ Federation’s Women’s Committee.

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