Women, work and the recession
I facilitated a public meeting at the Merci building yesterday. The topic on the table: Women, work and the recession. Government response to the recession has prioritised male-dominated sectors, like the car industry. Sectors dominated by women, like retail and care work, are being neglected. It really annoys me that cuts to much needed public services are a foregone conclusion – surely in a recession these services are more needed than ever? Why is the public purse bailing out the private sector? Bankers bonuses are back on the rise and the financial sector seem intent on getting back to business as usual – why aren’t people rioting on the streets????
Bea Campbell, writer and broadcaster began by speaking about why women, work and the recession are inherently Green issues – something obvious to me but not necessarily to everyone. She went into the basic meaning of ‘sustainability’ and talked about social justice as one of the four pillars of the Green Party – Social justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked. Bea, who is fast becoming a hero of mine, is standing for the Green Party in the up and coming elections. During her talk she urged caution when discussing the recession in terms of women being the only victims (she dislikes the term) of the recession but one thing is irrefutable: mothers are poorer than anybody!
Next we heard from Rachel English, Co-ordinator of Women Working Worldwide who gave us insight into the effects of the global recession and how it has increased exploitation of low paid female workers. Whether it’s the veg we eat or the clothes that we wear chances are it was manufactured or grown by a woman. The global recessions has meant more pressure on supply chains to maintain growth in profits and this has been detrimental to low paid workers wages furthering the hardship of female labourers internationally.
Zoe Smith spoke about Oxfam and women’s poverty in the UK. She described women as the “economic shock absorbers for families“ and talked about the male orientated benefits system. Oxfam are involved with producing ‘ReGender’ and ‘GenderWorks’ training packs aimed at either individual women or community groups.
We then had a fascinating talk from Sue Bond of the PCS Union, interestingly 60% of PCS workers are women. She mentioned a telling moment at the recent TUC conference, when after saying the word ‘cuts’ 17 times Gordon Brown still got a round of applause from the audience; the PCS is one of the few unions not affiliated to Labour and was appalled. She expressed her dismay that allot of the unions ignore the undercurrent of misogyny pushing our government into ever more discriminatory practices.
At the end of all the anti-cuts talk there was one thing all of us at the meeting agreed on and that is there are definitely some cuts we could all get behind – getting rid of Trident (97billion) and ending the occupation of Afghanistan!
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