RMT Women's Conference: Day Two

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 03/12/2007 - 21:42

Into the second day for only the second time (RMT's women's conference was a one-day affair until year), the Executive reported on progress with last year's resolutions. One had been ruled out of order in a heavy-handed manner, others have been "progressed" or "linked to other files" or what have you. We need to make the Executive somewhat more responsive - but we also need to make our own resolutions include more specific mandates to help ensure that action is taken.

Before moving on to this year's resolutions, we had a superb address by Ann Scargill and Betty Cook about Women Against Pit Closures. Their tales of the 1984/5 miners' strike covered picketing police brutality; women organising demonstrations, speaking in public and refusing to play second fiddle to the men; and the swift lesson that a woman Prime Minister is not necessarily our sister! I think every delegate was moved, entertained, and glad of the education about a crucial episode in working-class women's history.

After lunch, Conference elected the Chair of the National Women's Advisory Committee for the coming year. It's me.

Resolutions from branches covered many of the issues that bother women at work - occupational health; pregnancy and health & safety; learning in the workplace. A crucial resolution from Bristol Rail set out a detailed plan for building rank-and-file women's organisation at a Regional level, and will go forward to RMT's AGM to ensure that the whole union is on board (as will the resolution about occupational health).

A delegate from Finsbury Park branch, herself an ISS cleaner, moved an emergency resolution in support of their fight against job cuts, which also explained that the reason that female-dominated jobs such as cleaning are so badly-paid is that they are modelled on women's unpaid work in the home. All resolutions were passed unanimously.

The conference wound up with a brief presentation from the RMT Credit Union, and a more detailed one from the Organising Unit.

Returning on the train to London, four of us took the branch new RMT women's banner on the Abortion Rights march organised by Feminist Fightback. It was a fitting end to a good two days, and I'll add a picture to this story tomorrow.

I think women in the RMT have come out of the conference in a stronger position to challenge sexism and backward thinking in the industry and the union - and god knows, we need to. With some effort, we can make sure that next year's conference is bigger, and follows a year of developing rank-and-file organisation and political growth. There was a good bunch of delegates from the London Transport region, who are committed to setting up a regional women's campaign. Similar initatives are under way in other regions.

Go for it, sisters.