Published: 07/03/2017

Women continue to suffer systematic discrimination concerning remuneration, access to jobs, social security, unpaid household and care work.

Women at Work – Trends 2016, a recent ILO report, concludes that in the absence of specific policy measures to address gender-based discrimination, it will take another 70 years to close the gender pay gap. The internationally recognized principles of equal pay for work of equal value (ILO Convention 100, adopted in 1951) and of non-discrimination in employment (ILO Convention 111, adopted in 1960) have been transposed into national legislation in at least 173 countries but still far from implemented. Unions therefore play a crucial role in making sure that pay equity and equal access to jobs are included in the collective bargaining agenda.

Around the world, the IUF and its affiliates are fighting for More Women – More Power -Breaking down barriers, winning safety, security & equality at work.

The Pakistan Food Workers’ Union has shown that it is possible to negotiate for more and better jobs for women as well as child care facilities even in sectors that have traditionally been reserved for male workers. The Indian Self Employed Women’s Association has successfully negotiated access to social security for 100 000 of their members in the informal economy. IUF affiliates in French speaking West Africa are discussing with their national social security institutions the inclusion of domestic and informal economy workers in national social security schemes. Coordinated action by IUF affiliates has improved respect for maternity and parental rights in many countries. In Latin America women coordinators of regional company networks are building the bargaining agenda for women workers. The IUF global housekeeping initiative is gaining increased visibility, organization and recognition of the female labour force in the hotel sector.

The IUF has taken the struggle against sexual harassment and gender-based violence into all IUF regions. In January 2016 the IUF signed a joint commitment with Unilever to prevent and combat sexual harassment. The agreement recognizes the particular vulnerability of women in precarious forms of employment.

IUF cases studies on gender based violence prepared for the ILO expert meeting on violence and harassment highlighted the economic vulnerability that makes it difficult for women to escape from domestic violence as well as work place violence.

Against the impunity of widespread feminicide in Latin America, the IUF regional women’s committee CLAMU has joined the movement “Ni Una Menos” and in the struggle against gender based violence CLAMU established the Observatory on workplace violence “Berta Caceres” (in Spanish).

International Women’s Day traces its origins to March 8, 1857 when textile workers on New York’s Lower East Side demonstrated for their rights. On an international level it was launched in 1910 at the 2nd International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen and first celebrated in 1911 by millions of workers in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

International women’s Day is a product of the socialist labour movement, and it remains as true as ever that union membership is the best defense against discrimination. The most important fight is for the right for all workers to join and be represented by a trade union.