Thursday, November 17, 2011

Womens STUC conference 2011

The Fire brigades Union Scottish women's committee delegation to the 84th Womens Scottish Trades Union Congress Conference. This was my second conference and was as ever an inspiring & stimulating event. It can be emotional, some of the issues being discussed and the stories we hear are distressing. the plight of families when a parent is in prison, the horrors of human trafficking and the sex trade in this country, the oppression and harrassment of women across the board. It is good to get together with other like minded women and be able to talk about these things without being silenced, criticised  condemned  or sneered at.

Yvonne from the FBU gives her speech about the terrible things happening in Columbia to Women activists and trade unionists. they will be imprisoned, tortured, raped and even murdered in front of their children simply for doing things that we take for granted in the UK. Justice for Columbia is an organisation which works to help these women, and campaign to save their lives, raise their individual profiles and assist them in prison. The WSTUC voted to support this organisation in this important work.

the conference was at the Glasgow Concert hall this year, this was the 84th Womens STUC conference.

Colleen from the FBU speaking about the disproportionate affect the government cuts are having on women. We suffer a triple whammy, public sector jobs are mostly women, are lower waged to start with, loose benefits and child allowance, are mostly the ones in caring roles, women are the domestic organisers and budgeters so the VAT hike affects households, women have a loss of support services like childcare, community services, carers support services. Poverty has been proven to raise domestic violence against women as there is more stress in the home, but now shelters and organisations like rape crisis are also having their funding cut, the list is endless. However trade union women are strong and organised and are not about to accept being pushed back 30 years, our sisters fought long and hard for the rights we do have and we are not about to let them slide.

the campaign of the STUC against the westminster government cuts focuses on the alternatives, many people believe that the cuts are necessary to solve the deficit that was made by the MASSIVE banks bail out. however if the unpaid corporate taxes were claimed it would easily raise more than all the pensions cuts and public sector cuts. the amounts being clawed out of the public sector purse are tiny compared to what is getting spent on things like wars, bailing out the banks, keeping corporate tax lower. The cuts are ideologically driven to push the remains of the welfare state and public sector into private corporate hands, to keep the wealth and profit in the hands of the 1%. this country had a bigger deficit after the war but investment in a welfare state, jobs and housing bought the economy back. this is what is needed again- while the rich need to pay their fair share. The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the world. ( I have the stats somewhere but not to hand )

Baroness May Blood spoke about how she formed the Womens Coilition in Northern Ireland, set up things like integrated schools, and when attending a parliamentary meeting in the old days with Ian Paisley , was asked to 'go and make the tea love'.

The FBU delegates

a fringe meeting on Monday evening about the pension cuts & day of action on the 30th. the women delegates were joined by some of our FBU regional officials. The FBU is still in talks with government  so has not felt it appropriate to ballot for strike action yet, but fully supports all the other unions planned strike action and will be supporting at the picket lines and rallys across the country.

Nicola Sturgeon, talking about how the westminster government has forced their hand in Holyrood over the pensions cuts. If the scottish parliament do not enforce the increase in contributions ( to go to the deficit not into the pension schemes ) the Scottish budget will be slashed by 8.4million per month by london. Scotland can't afford this. She made the argument that we need to be in control of our own finances to better stand up against this sort of thing. She also said that a Scottish hospital would be privatized over her dead body. 

me speaking about the Fire fighter pension cuts. basically they want us ( like all other public sector workers ) to pay more, work longer, and get less. The problem with the fire service is, do you want a 60 year old coming to rescue you when you phone 999 ? do you want a 68 year old manning the call centre at 4am ?  I am only 45 but the job already gets physically tougher every year, i don't know if i can manage another 10 years to the retirement age of 55. certainly not another 15. there are no redeployment opportunities, and if people have to leave the service early due to ill health the government savings will all be lost on sick pay, they will not be able to afford to have enough staff for fire cover.  I could go on!. I did a lot of homework on this!
However i did not enjoy doing my first conference speech, burning buildings are easy compared to that nerve racking experience !

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