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by Conrad Landin
FEMALE seafarers must “call bullshit” on mandatory pregnancy testing for cruise-ship workers, a leading trade unionist has said.
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith said the practice was blatantly discriminatory.
Many cruise lines insist on a pregnancy test as part of a medical examination of workers before they come aboard.
Women with uncomplicated pregnancies are allowed to work on ships up until a certain point, but shipping companies want to avoid the costs of support and standing them down when necessary.
Ms Smith told the women’s conference of transport union RMT that she had been “calling bullshit” on mandatory pregnancy testing in recent negotiations with bosses at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous that the ship owners were so bold in saying: ‘We do this because we care’,” she said.
“You could have a UK seafarer who wants to work on a cruise ship, and before you go on they have to get a medical certificate — and mandatory pregnancy test.”
Ms Smith, who started out working on ferry casinos, became the first female president of the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union.
She paid tribute to Michelle Rodgers, who became the RMT’s first female president last year.
She also stressed: “We need to really make sure that women feel welcomed on board, that they don’t have social isolation because they’re the only woman, that they don’t face discrimination.
“It comes down to political willingness to take concrete action instead of just going down to Geneva and hearing a load of fluff.”
Addressing the conference, Ms Rodgers said: “We’re women who want to make a difference. And if men don’t like that, that’s their headache not ours — and we’re going to shout louder.
“I wake up in the morning and I realise I’ve got something really special here, but I didn’t do this — we did this.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said he believed his predecessor Bob Crow would have been “particularly proud of the progress we’ve made as a union.”
He told delegates: “We need to be looking in the future as to how we get the rep and we get more reflection of the diverse nature of our union in key positions.”
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