Report from the ICEM Women’s Committee Meeting

February 28, 2012

Geneva, Switzerland – Given that three formidable Global Union Federations (GUFs) will be merging (the ICEM – International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union – the IMF – International Metalworkers’ Federation – and the ITGLWF – International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation) this was the last meeting of the ICEM Women’s Committee. However, there is a strong commitment from all three organizations that this committee will continue under the new GUF. Moreover, under the statutes for the new organization, 30 per cent of the seats on the Executive Committee will be held by women. While there was general agreement by the Women’s Committee that this was a good start, the consensus was that we would build on this representation until women reach parity on the Executive Committee.

The ICEM Women’s Committee meeting saw delegates from 15 countries in attendance, including MoveUP Vice President Gwenne Farrell. Farrell holds the Women’s Seat for the ICEM North American Executive Committee. Many issues of common interest across the globe were discussed including pay equity, gender equality, bargaining concessions from benefits for women, maternity leave benefits and pension benefits. There were also some unique issues presented particularly from the African Region where there is a significant focus on HIV/AIDS. There are still strong barriers in place in this region regarding HIV/AIDS which must be removed, most notably around traditions and culture. The committee recognized that the trade union movement has a role to play in removing those barriers.

The report from the Eastern European Region held some surprising information. While most unionized companies provide maternity leave and benefits, the same cannot be said for the non-organized workplaces. Women are still fired from their jobs simply for being pregnant.

The committee also heard about the potential for pension reform in Russia where the retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for women. However, life expectancy in Russia for men is 60 years and 74 years for women. The government is therefore considering raising the retirement age, but only for women.

The inaugural meeting of the Women’s Committee for the merged organization will take place immediately prior to the inaugural Executive Committee meeting scheduled in the late fall of 2012. The Congress to officially merge the ICEM with the IMF and the IFTGLW will be held in June 2012.