Domestic violence is a union issue

Submitted by AWL on 2 August, 2013 - 2:49

Every week, two women are killed by their partner or ex partner.

Many thousands more (and a smaller number of men) are victims of domestic violence. This is NOT an issue to be dealt with behind closed doors. It affects people at work and we need to take it up as a workplace issue.

Being a victim of domestic violence can affect how well you do your job, your timekeeping, your physical and mental well-being. But on a more positive note, going to work can be your means of escape, your opportunity to find support.

Transport workers are subjected to an alarming level of assault at work, often taking the hit for frustrations with our bosses' failure to provide a decent service. We have long demanded the right to go to work without being assaulted. But we also need the right to go home after work and not be assaulted.

RMT has circulated a model policy on domestic violence to employers. ASLEF also has a model policy, but it has been gathering dust for a while. Cross-Europe transport trade union body the European Transport Workers’ Federation is also taking up this issue through the work of its Women’s Committee.

As a minimum, we need to fight for:- no disciplinary action under MFA/Attendance policies for non-attendance and lateness caused by domestic abuse- protection from abusers seeking you out at work- time off that you might need to escape domestic violence, or to help a close friend or relative.

You might think that even hard-faced employers would not resist measures that provide a degree of protection at relatively little cost. But while some employers have agreed to discuss the policy, one or two major employers have resisted, arguing that their employees’ personal lives are not their concern.

The idea that domestic violence is a private matter has been around for a long time. It helps to protect its perpetrators and disempower its victims. We can not tolerate employers taking such a stance – especially as they are supposed to have a ‘duty of care’!

We have to get the issue of domestic violence out from behind closed doors and into the mainstream of industrial relations.