Saturday 4 November 2023

Report from STUC Women’s Conference 2023

Kathleen Kennedy, Vice president and Kate Ramsden were the ATUC delegates to the 96th Annual STUC Women’s Conference in Glasgow, on 30 and 31 October 2023.

Conference backs ATUC emergency motion on Gaza

ATUC submitted an emergency motion on Gaza to the Conference, entitled “End the Genocide in Gaza”. Initially this was to be composited with emergency motions from the STUC Women’s Committee and the National College of Midwives, but were then heard as individual motions with the NCM withdrawing theirs.

Our motion called on the STUC Women’s Committee to continue to work with the General Council to highlight the terrible impact of this war on innocent women, children and men and to call for a ceasefire; to lobby our Scottish politicians of all parties to condemn unequivocally the bombardment of Gaza, to condemn the loss of all human life equally and to demand an immediate ceasefire and the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza; to call on all affiliates to support the demonstrations in cities across Scotland and to add their voices to these calls.

It was approved and is now STUC Women’s Conference policy.

Moving the motion, Kate Ramsden told conference that we are witnessing genocide as the world looks on in horror. She condemned the UK’s cowardice at refusing to back a humanitarian ceasefire, when we are seeing the massacre of over 8000 Gazan civilians including over 3000 children.

Kate said: “These are not statistics. They are real people like you and me. Children with hopes and dreams and plans for their future. Now gone and everything they dreamed off and would have contributed to the world gone with them.”

Safe public spaces for women

STUC Women’s Committee will campaign for substantial investment from the Scottish Government, at both a national and local level, to improve public safety measures and ensure our public spaces are safe, especially for women.

Seconding the CWU motion, Kathleen Kennedy highlighted the shocking and tragic murder of Gill Barclay last year in Aberdeen and the “Reclaim the night” march that followed, “a time for reflection and remembrance.

“We are marching again on 25th November this year,” said Kathleen, “But really, in this day and age we shouldn’t have to. We should feel safe". However she pointed out that cuts have meant that Aberdeen City’s street lighting is cheaper and less bright, making it less safe for particularly women and disabled people to walk about after dark.

Too long to wait for equal pay

Kate Ramsden joined the condemnation of STUC Women Conference that more than 50 years after equal pay legislation the gender pay gap remains.

Delegates backed a range of measures to address it once and for all.

Supporting UNISON’s motion Time to Smash the Gender Pay Gap in Scotland, Kate told of how pupils in her Unions into Schools sessions could hardly believe that it was  illegal to pay women less than men as that was their experience; nor that the act was over 50 years old.

She spoke of the historical undervaluing of women’s work, but added, “We also know unequal pay is also prevalent in male dominated sectors. That can only be about those in power - men - hanging onto it despite the law.”

Kate pointed out that disabled woman and Black women are even more badly affected due to the disarms ethnicity pay gap.

Highlighting the key role of unions, trade union councils and the STUC to address this disadvantage, Kate added, “But 50 years plus is already too long to wait,” warned Kate, calling for action now to tackle the gender pay gap.

Cost of living crisis disproportionately affects women

In the important first debate of conference, delegates slammed the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on all our communities but noted its particular impact on women and children and set out a strategy to campaign for measures to address this.

ATUC delegate, Kathleen Kennedy, supporting the composite from EIS and PCS spoke out about the disproportionate impact on disabled people and also those who live in rural areas in Scotland.

She also spoke of her worries about the next generation whose parents will be unable to help them in the way parents can help adult children just now. She highlighted the important role of trade unions in supporting members and challenging politicians.

Kathleen said, “At work I hear people say they can’t afford to join a trade union. I get that but I say, can you afford not to?”

 ATUC’s Kate Ramsden has now been elected onto the STUC Women’s Committee in one of two Trade Union Council seats.