Violence against women, including domestic violence has long been recognised as a trade union issue. Many years ago a founder of the UK’s women’s refuge movement wrote a book whose title said it all: “Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear”.
One in four women suffers domestic violence in their lifetime. So it’s no wonder that at the recent Unite Women’s Conference this was a passionate debate. Discussions went on into the evening with women exchanging their own harrowing stories, heartbreaking accounts of violence in their homes by fathers and partners.
According to government figures domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime and results in two homicides a week. An estimated 750,000 children witness domestic violence every year.
What can trade unions do? Having women union reps is an important step as domestic violence is a gender sensitive issue and often results in absences with women losing pay and facing disciplinary action. As important as help for individuals is a well publicised domestic violence workplace policy made by collective agreement between the union and employer. These agreements can be very effective.
That’s why I was really very pleased when a Facebook ‘fan’ of mine pledged to get working on such a policy in her workplace. Like me, she was inspired by all the women Unite members who spoke so frankly about their lives and their determination to get union action on this in all our workplaces.
For more information, go to the End Violence Against Women website.