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UNISON has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights and gender equality for the last 25 years.
In July, we celebrate a quarter of a century as one of the foremost champions on women’s equality, defending their rights at work and beyond and creating a rich legacy of legal precedents to protect women into the future.
As Britain exits the EU, Unison will be lobbying to protect a raft of EU-derived employment rights, equality and fundamental freedoms.
The good news is that our union continues to grow — resilient and buoyant with one million women, growing stronger together.
Whatever the challenge, Unison will be leading the fight to protect public services, jobs, pay, pensions and working conditions.
As part of the ongoing campaign for equal pay, legislation on pay transparency comes into force next month.
For the first time, public, private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees must publish information on the gender pay gap in their organisation.
As Unison women celebrate key milestones, they will continue to push for progress on gender equality, building on our successes — the Pay up Now campaign that’s helped lift the government’s public-sector pay cap and the landmark victory in the Supreme Court last July abolishing employment tribunal fees.
They will be confident that their resolve in challenging injustice, from wherever it comes, has restored access to justice for millions of British working people.
Moreover, during the year, these same women will be fighting hard to improve real pay, pensions and living standards.
The agenda is packed with priorities agreed at our women’s conference in February, where over 900 women, the biggest gathering of its kind in the UK, shaped the union’s agenda and policies leading our campaigns.
But their resolve abounds in fighting on issues to promote a better work-life balance. Women still bear the major role of unpaid primary carer and have to juggle work and care. Official data shows that unpaid care falls most heavily on women aged 50 to 64.
From childcare to dependant care, women are in the main the majority carer, which has a huge impact on their economic income and independence.
Other priorities include women’s mental health and wellbeing, effective rights for part-time and flexible workers, tackling low and unequal pay, protecting women’s safety in the workplace, safe travel for women and safety in public spaces and fighting sexual assaults, harassment and violence against women.
The impact of automation, digitalisation and technology on women’s jobs in public services and the role unions can play ensuring the creation of higher skilled, better-paid jobs that improve the lives and work of women will form a major campaign.
Insecure jobs, outsourcing, the privatisation of public services and the proliferation of zero-hours contracts are eroding decent jobs and employment rights for women at work.
The TUC has called a national demonstration as part of its great jobs agenda and Unison women will be making their voices heard and their presence visible on the streets of London on Saturday May 12.
They will push for progress and action to tackle the scourge of sexual harassment engulfing the corridors of power and the workplace.
Women’s rights are workers’ rights. Time is up to end the indignities, inequalities and injustices women face in the workplace and beyond.
It’s time to break with the past. In June, at an international level, we will be campaigning with Public Services International to lobby governments around the world to support an ILO Convention on violence against women and men at work.
We will campaign for and demand a new gender contract that tackles misogyny and hate crime, respects women’s dignity and fundamental human rights.
Gloria Mills is national secretary equalities, Unison.
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