|EAST MIDLANDS BRANCH|
|Latest Equality News|
ON THIS PAGE - REPORT OF CWU WOMEN'S CONFERENCE/ARTICLE Jan 2011 - Flexible working legislation extended to parents of children under 18/The BT Passport Scheme/ACCESS TO WORK - ARE YOU ENTITLED TO ACCESS TO WORK ASSISTANCE?
CWU WOMEN'S CONFERENCE, LEEDS 26 NOVEMBER
The East Midlands Branch was represented by Jacinda Roberts (Women's Officer) and Linda Woodings (Political Officer) at the conference. Julia Upton was present at the conference having recently been appointed as the NEC representative to the National Women's Advisory Committee.
On the 26th November over one hundred delegates - new and seasoned - from 77 CWU branches converged on the grand Leeds City Council chamber to take part in the annual CWU Women's conference.
Debates covered a melting pot of industrial and gender issues affecting thousands of members across the UK, and conference heard from inspirational speakers including CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, veteran campaigner Margaret Handforth and Nan Sloane from the Centre for Women and Democracy.
Women bearing the brunt
CWU national equality officer, Linda Roy, praised progress within CWU on gender equality, explaining that "for the first time in our history we have a woman president and vice president."
Linda outlined inequalities facing women, saying: "Women and working mothers are bearing the brunt of the cuts, with more women retiring into poverty and losing their jobs.
"The ConDems want to erode the Equality Act, erode our employment rights and reduce the minimum wage" explained Linda. "Under Labour many hundreds of thousands of women entered the labour market - under the ConDems women are losing their jobs."
In his speech to conference, CWU general secretary, Billy Hayes, said: "The need for women trade unionists is greater than ever. Dave Prentis has said the public sector strike on November 30 is a women's strike. With 1.9million women out of the workforce and the average pension of low paid women council workers at £2,800 a year it's incredible that David Cameron is wondering why support from women is slipping away. We have to give the lie to the message there is no alternative to austerity. We must press for investment not cuts."
Women's workplace issues
Kicking off a topical debate on flexible working conditions and finding a balance between work and home life, Helen Ogilvie, WAC member of Scotland no. 2 branch said: "For many women with small children, flexible working can be the difference between keeping a job or not."
Echoing these sentiments, delegate Jacqui Stewart highlighted the cases of three call centre workers who are finding it difficult to find the balance with changing shift patterns. In one case a mother who's just had her second child has been put on weekend and evening shift work, while another has been told she'll lose her job if she can't fit around her new shift times. "Women are being forced into part time work by unreasonable employers who refuse flexible working," explained Jacqui.
Women's health featured as a major concern for conference with Ruth Harris from Portsmouth moving motion 8 on the issue of long-term female fatigue. Speaking in support, Jennifer Banks - a postwoman from Bognor Regis - explained how she experienced extreme pain in her knees and wrists after delivery revisions were brought into her office. After speaking to her colleagues and doing some research she found that other health effects included shin splints, sore backs and depression with serious long-term side effects. Conference agreed that action was needed to raise awareness of these problems and to ensure that measures are put in place to protect people from these health problems.
In moving motion 9 on toilet facilities, Sandy Best from the South West region explained that when at home or in workplaces like call centres and offices it is not something we think about: "It's something we all have to do", she said. "But compare this with field engineers and delivery posties and there are real problems - especially for women" she explained.
Several speakers agreed, with one highlighting a recent case in her office where a delivery postwoman faced a criminal record after relieving herself in a bush while on delivery, with another speaker explaining the vast difference in facilities where they do exist, lacking bins and towels or not being cleaned. Conference decided that greater publicity is needed for the agreements that CWU has with employers to address the issue of access to toilet facilities as many women are unaware of their rights.
Education and profile
Encouraged by the thirst for knowledge shown by the women around her, the Castleford Women's centre was born. Reminiscing, Margaret said: "I was a bit of a nut about it. We had 2,000 students a year and people were so hungry to learn - especially the women. We didn't want the kitchen sink back."
After 22 years of running courses funded by the local authority, the college has now become the Castleford Community Learning Centre. Concluding, Margaret said: "I love to hear positive women. There's nothing that gives you more satisfaction than learning."
Outlining the work carried out by the Centre for Women and Democracy (CWD), second guest speaker Nan Sloane told conference: "Women make up 52 per cent of the population but not 52 per cent of decision makers, which is why the CWD looks at the roles of women in public life.
"Does it matter? Well, there are only five women Cabinet members - the highest was six in 1997 - and only 22 per cent of MPs are women. In management positions only primary school head teachers are majority women. So yes, we think it matters."
Arguing the point that it is the system within which women are being asked to operate that is the problem, Nan urged delegates to facilitate change by getting involved, saying: "We want to change the system. We need to change the nature of politics."
Conference carried 19 of the 23 motions and two - on flexible working and workplace rights - will be put forward to CWU General Conference in April 2012.
Jan 2011 - Flexible working legislation extended to parents of children under 18
Despite the quote from Ed Davey (a Lib Dem minister), the Right to Request Flexible Working Hours legislation was both introduced and later extended, to cover all children u18 by the Labour Government prior to the 2010 General Election. The Tory government has discussed watering down this and many other of the employment rights improvements (including the Equality Act) prior to their coming into force in April 2011 - members will be advised and updated of any changes to their working rights via this website.
The right to request flexible working has been extended to parents of children aged under 18 and will come into force on 6 April 2011.
Currently the right applies to parents of children aged under 17, as well as parents of disabled children aged under 18 and carers of certain adults.
When he announced the plans in September, employment relations minister Edward Davey explained that the Government wants to create a fairer and more family-friendly society, while making it simpler for both employers and staff to identify whether or not they are eligible to make a flexible working request.
The Government will also publish proposals on extending the right to request flexible working to all employees in January 2011, with the consultation to be completed in March 2011. It is likely that this will be implemented in April 2012.
Bar Huberman, employment law editor at XpertHR, explained: "Employers should ensure that by 6 April 2011 they amend their policies and procedures that relate to the right to request flexible working to bring them up to date, by changing the eligibility requirements in their flexible working policy.
"In addition to the flexible working policy, employers should consider other policies that might be affected, for example their retirement policy or maternity policy that set out the procedure for reintroduction to the workplace following maternity leave. Employers should ensure that all individuals who deal with requests for flexible working are brought up to date on the changes, by updating training."
The TUC has welcomed the extension of flexible working to parents of children under 18 but says it will continue to press for a universal right to request.
The BT Passport Scheme – Information for CWU members.
What is the BT passport?
Who can have a BT Passport?
What are the benefits of having
a BT Passport?
Who has access to the information
in the Passport?
Who controls the information placed
into the Passport?
Do I have to do this on my own
with my line manager?
If my health condition is currently
OK will the BT Passport help me?
In my current job role I have
no problems that cause me difficulties, why would I need a BT Passport?
For information on the Disability and Special Needs Advisory Committee (DSNAC) and the latest CWU Disability information and guides please see CWU National Website>Advisory Committees>Disability & Special Needs.
Members with comments or questions regarding DSNAC matters please send an email entitled “Disability Report” to the East Midlands Branch email address 'firstname.lastname@example.org'.
ACCESS TO WORK - ARE YOU ENTITLED TO ACCESS TO WORK ASSISTANCE?
WHAT IS ACCESS TO WORK?
WHO QUALIFIES FOR ACCESS TO WORK?
WHAT SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE?
HOW DO YOU GET ATW ASSISTANCE?
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
WANT TO FIND OUT MORE?
You can also contact the CWU Equal Opportunities
Department if you have any questions or queries on this or any other matter.