Violence is not "part of the job"

Submitted by cathy n on 20 November, 2014 - 8:48 Author: Becky Crocker

25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Both the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the European Transport Workers’ Federation have publicly marked this day and raised the profile of their ongoing campaigns to tackle violence and harassment against women who work in the transport industry. The UK Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will mark this year’s day with a meeting for all women trade unionists and allies.

The core of the international campaign in the transport industry is to raise awareness among all workers of all genders and to get employers to recognise that this is an serious issue. It should not be just “part of the job”.
According to a statement from the ETF:

“Transport is an industry with high incidence of violence. Many women transport workers work in desk-front jobs, being in direct contact with clients and customers, and are often exposed to aggressive behaviour, be it verbal or physical.
“Companies do too little to tackle third party violence. On contrary, they practice a tacit policy of ‘client is always right’. Women workers are instructed by their employer to de-fuse violence rather than report it back, and complaints are hardly taken into account or dealt with.

“Transport is also a highly segregated industry, but women do get gradually recruited in male-dominated jobs. Many however leave the industry soon after they get employed. Workplace violence and harassment stand as one of the main reasons for the poor retention of women in transport professions.”

Women in the RMT want to replicate the international union campaign. Last year the union conducted a survey among its members of all genders focused on sexual assaults at work (rather than the broader issue of all violence). While the survey returns were small (not unusual for a survey of this type) the union did get a lot of qualitative material to add to the knowledge we already have about how prevalent and serious an issue this is.

For example on the London Underground in 2013-14 there were 31 reported sexual assault on staff members, 23 on women and 8 on men. Sometimes sexual assaults are recorded as general assaults and not all assaults are reported. We also know that the culture of acceptance of sexual harassment against women seafarers is very bad.

In our union we have produce a model workplace agreement on domestic violence which includes such things as ensuring that women absent after suffering violence are not disciplined. We also want to educate our reps, most of whom are men.
The RMT-organised meeting on the 25 November will be a chance for women across different unions to meet up, to share experience and to identify areas we can campaign together on.

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