On the final morning, Community moved a resolution about single staffing in betting shops, concerned at threats and assaults against women working alone, and about employers not allowing women to leave work if a domestic emergency arose as the shop would have to close. Several supporting speakers outlined the dangers and stresses of lone working in their industries, including RMT delegate Ruth Strong (pictured).
There was a curious opposing speech from UNISON, which argued that the resolution was too narrowly-focussed, and that proper enforcement of risk assessment law would be prefereable to the legislative ban on single-staffing in betting shops advocated by the motion. I think UNISON is wrong on this: strong, proscriptive laws will always be more powerful than risk assessments under the auspices of individual employers. In fact, that's the core of the argument by the rail unions in defence of Section 12, where the government wants to replace firm legislation by a system of risk assessment, weakening essential protection for passengers and workers.
Conference had earlier passed an emergency motion from the TGWU opposing New Labour's threats to cut benefits from lone parents to force them into paid work. The debate saw some of the most angry and impassioned speeches of the week: rightly so.
And one more thing ... I got elected to TUC Women's Committee. This was something of a shock, as I lost last year, and RMT has never (to my knowledge) had a representative on the Committee before. I suspect that amongst conference delegates, while right-wing union bureaucrats think I'm a loudmouthed raving lefty, a fair few of the rank-and-file activists thought that a loudmouthed raving lefty was just what the Women's Committee needs.
The full line-up of the Committee is:
- Section A (14 seats open to all delegates): Rehana Azam (National Officer, GMB), Keren Bender (Manufacturing Support Co-ordinator, Community), Janine Booth (London Underground Station Supervisor, RMT), Pat Campbell (Head of Equality Health and Safety, PCS), Pauline Cawood (Train Driver, ASLEF), Mary Davis (Lecturer, University and College Union), Michele Emerson (National Equality Officer, CWU), Lorene Fabian (Industrial Tutor, Amicus), Diana Holland (National Organiser Women, Race and Equalities, TGWU), Max Hyde (Teacher, NUT), Wendy Jones (Equality Officer, First Division Association), Vicky Knight (Firefighter, FBU), Annette Mansell-Green (Branch Secretary, Unison), Barbara White (Musician, Musicians' Union)
- Section B (four seats for black women): Sonia Foster (General Assistant, USDAW), Evelyn Martin (Home Carer, Islington Council, GMB), June Nelson (Healthcare Assistant, Unison), Monica Taylor (Assembly Operator, TGWU)
- I did not catch the result of the election for Section C (one seat for a disabled woman); there were no nominations for Section D (one seat for a lesbian, bisexual or trans woman)