Women unionists organise for equal pay

The Geelong Women Unionists Network (GWUN), with the support of Geelong Trades Hall Council, hosted its second Working Women Get Organised conference at Geelong Trades Hall on October 13.

Organised by local rank-and-file women unionists, the aim of these conferences is to empower working women and give them a voice in what has traditionally been a male-dominated environment.

While the inaugural 2017 conference focused on family and gendered violence, this years’ conference was dedicated to the issue of equal pay.

Topics discussed included the gendered pay gap, the devaluing of female-dominated industries, the right to strike using a gendered lens, workplace sexual harassment and wage theft.

There was also a panel on the origins of women’s oppression and a workshop on public speaking for women.

Speakers included a mix of rank-and-file unionists and trade union officials.

A minute’s silence was held to honour and respect the women killed by violence in Australia (55 this year alone, at the time of publication).

A rally and march through the streets of Geelong was also organised to demand equal pay, respect for women and an end to violence against women.

The march was led by the children of Geelong Trades Hall activists with unionists from Australian Services Union, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, among others, marching behind them.

The day concluded with a dinner that included speeches by Aboriginal activists and lawyer and comedian Corinne Grant, who spoke on collective action and women in male-dominated industries.

GWUN was established in 2002 by the now-local state Labor MP Christine Couzens to ensure that women unionists’ voices were heard and their significant contributions to the union movement recorded and recognised.