“We have to mobilize women in our countries and convince them to join unions,“ said Selina Tyikwe from South Africa at the beginning of the conference. “That would strengthen the women and their issues within the IMF”.
Jürgen Peters, President of the IMF, reported on the work the IMF has done on women’s issue. “We do have more women in our campaigns, meetings and conferences. It still could increase, but we are on track. Is it essential that the women’s voices are heard.“
Marcello Mallentacchi, IMF General Secretary, hopes for an enrichment of the discussions and an increasing number of women in IMF structures. “The women should not only speak up on women’s issues. They should speak up when ever injustices occur,“ he said.
Jenny Holdcroft, equal rights director in the IMF, gave a report on her departments work. In the beginning of her speech, she talked about the enormous stride the IMF has made in the last four years. She said: “There are more women in IMF structures, and more women participate in the IMFs political work.” The action programme which will be discussed in the IMF conference next week has a strong female influence, as many women were involved in its preparation. Holdcroft also pointed out that at the last IMF Congress in Sydney 4 years ago 11 per cent of the delegates were women, at the congress in Vienna there will be 20 per cent. She also talked about the many changes in the IMF’s regionals structures – which still should be enforced. Investigions show that there are some sectors like the electronic industry with mostly female workers but only very few union members or union representatives. “Many unions do not use the membership potential women offer. To help our affiliates improve that situation will be an important task over the coming years.“
A round table discussion was the highlight of the afternoon. Gisela Notz of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Germany spoke about the effects of globalisation on women. The particular affects on women are neglected by experts today, she said. “But gender specific effects of globalisation are just as important as economic and political effects. This places particular demands on the trade unions and their policy,” said Gisela Notz.
This was followed by reports by women from all over the world which all had one thing in common: Globalisation does have negative effects on women all over the world, from Brazil to Switzerland: low qualifications, low incomes and low social security for women, and better jobs with more money for men.
Sanjyot Vadhavkar from India said that very few women are organised in unions and therefore represented in the unions’ structures. So they often have no idea of their own rights, she said. “They are being exploited in export processing zones (EPZs). We have often tried to get into contact with these women in the EPZs, but that is very difficult, because they are afraid of losing their jobs, because union are banned from there. But we keep on that issue, we inform and advise them and we´re beginning to have positive feedback.“
Ann Donnellan told that as an effect of globalisation more and more women in Australia work in precarious jobs. “Those women who have temporary jobs have less benefits such as holidays, social benefits or unemployment benefits.” She also said that many of them are not organised in unions. “We developed several campaigns and projects with issues especially suited for the women to convince them to join the unions,” she said.
Emilia Valente from Brazil identified one positive aspect in globalisation: “At least the gender discussion takes place in the unions now. We have facts, figures and background material now with which we can argue and work.” But speaking on working conditions, Emilia reported that Brazil is like the other countries: Women are working in the jobs with small incomes and low security.
Fabienne Blanc-Kühn said that 80 per cent of the working women in Switzerland are in the social sector, only about 150,000 are in the manufacturing sector. “The women there are irreplaceable,” she said ironically. “The have experience with this work but no official certificate, so they are very flexible and very cheap workers. They accept jobs that men often would not accept.”
In the end, Emilia Valente talked about her unions decision to have 30 per cent women in all structures. “When men then tell me, the women do not want to participate in trade union work I say: That is not correct. They do not not want to participate, they just did not get enough signs that their work would be welcome. That has got to change.”