ETF Women's Committee meeting, March 2015: Campaigning for Health & Safety and Against Violence

The European Transport Workers' Federation's Women's Committee meets twice per year to discuss issues facing women transport workers across Europe and to drive forward the programme of work agreed by the four-yearly ETF Women's Conference.


The Committee had planned a major project to train activists to fight campaigns to improve women's health and safety at work. However, the European Commission has rejected the ETF's application for funding for this project. I and others stressed that it would be a mistake to rely on Commission funding for our campaigns - not only is it unreliable, but trade union bodies need to operate independently of government bodies. The campaign will instead be funded from the Women's Committee's own resources, and take up most of the year's budget.

We are developing a training module on women's health and safety at work, and Committee members put forward ideas as to what needs to be included: work-life balance; pregnancy, maternity, breastfeeding; menstrual cycle, menopause; the physical workplace environment; and 'psycho-social' hazards eg. sources of stress, workload etc. I also stressed that the training must include what women can do to assert our health and safety rights at work, including refusal to work on the grounds of health and safety concerns.

Once this training module is completed, RMT would benefit from using it. Its format means that it can be used informally in workplaces or branches, or in more formal training settings. We could incorporate it into health and safety reps' training and perhaps have a presentation about it at next year's Health and Safety Conference.


It was put to the Committee that due to the financial constraints outlined above, we should postpone our second priority campaign - on violence against women transport workers - for another year. However, the Committee rejected this: we were not prepared to see this work not done nor to have such an important campaign left to the mercy of external funders.

It will be reported by to the ETF that we want to press ahead with this work and want funding to do it.

In the meantime, we will be going ahead with work that does not need a lot of money, specifically:

  • setting up a section of the ETF website to collate and circulate information and materials on this issue
  • including in this an online form where women transport workers can submit their experiences and opinions about violence at work
  • asking women to forward reports, links, policies etc for inclusion in the website section
  • endorsing the three poster designs submitted on the subject VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN TRANSPORT WORKERS - IT'S NOT PART OF THE JOB (including one submitted by RMT women); making these available for download and printing; asking those who download and print it to tell us where they are using the posters and sending photographs of the posters on display in workplaces; continue to welcome new poster designs.


Trade unions, including RMT, could do more to participate in ETF (and ITF - International Transport Workers' Federation) women's campaigns and events.

Also, the ETF Women's Committee could probably get more women involved by going directly to women transport workers rather than solely going through the affiliated national unions, which do not always respond or pass on information to women members.