Ann Henderson: Talks speak up for women and their priorities at work

Aileen Campbell MSP. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Aileen Campbell MSP. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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WOMEN in Scotland face growing uncertainty over job security and pensions; part-time work when actually seeking full-time work; rising household prices and transport costs; and pressures on many public services at local level, including reductions in childcare places.

Delegates to the annual Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Women’s Conference gather in Perth today and tomorrow, to discuss these issues and many more. Trade unionists from every sector will bring the perspective of the female workforce to the fore. Women in manufacturing, in science, transport, in public sector, private sector and in the voluntary sector, will speak of the priorities from their own workplaces.

The STUC Women’s Conference gives us a chance to hear the realities from women in Scotland as they juggle work, family and budgets – but it also reminds us of the benefits, to society and the economy, of good workplace trade union organisation.

A number of inspirational speakers have been invited, including this year’s TUC Women’s Gold Badge Award winner, Mary Turner OBE, president of the GMB union. Mary will address the conference on Tuesday morning, with a passionate commitment to speaking up for the low-paid, part-time, female staff she represented in Brent, her local authority.

In campaigning for accessible and universal childcare provision, the conference will highlight the needs of the care workforce, along with the needs of parents. Grandparents, parents, and carers should be able to find the childcare services they need, and approach employers to negotiate flexible working which is beneficial to all.

Flexible working and other “family-friendly” policies were given due recognition by the Scottish Government at a roundtable event in the Parliament at the end of last session, hosted by the minister for children and young people, Aileen Campbell MSP. And at the recent joint STUC and Scottish Government Women’s Employment Summit, participants from all sectors agreed on the urgency now surrounding adequate childcare provision, as part of a strategy for economic growth. Hopefully, action will now follow, as many different choices could be made within the Scottish budget. The Cabinet secretary for finance, John Swinney MSP, speaks at the conference today.

• Ann Henderson is assistant secretary of the STUC.