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posted 11 Mar 2013, 20:03 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Mar 2013, 20:06 ]
Women of the Joint Trade Union Movement

C/O Women’s Committee
Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union
#85 Eighth Street, Barataria 
08 March 2013 

The Honourable Marlene Coudray
Ministry Of Gender, Youth and Child Development
Level 20-21, Tower D
International Waterfront Complex
1A Wrightson Road,
Port of Spain      

On this internationally significant and auspicious commemoration of International Women’s Day 2013, we submit this correspondence for your prompt and sincere attention. 

It is noteworthy to highlight here that the genesis of International Women’s Day can be found at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910 where groups central to which were labour unions agreed to establish a day to enable women to press for their demands. 
The very next year in countries across Europe over one million women and men attended International Women’s Day rallies where they campaigned for the end of discrimination against women, their rights to work, vote, access training, public office, fair wages, better working conditions, and equality for workers. 
Though much progress has been made, one hundred and two years later, many of these same issues have not been resolved. These struggles are still very relevant to women the world over and certainly in Trinidad and Tobago. 

It is in this vein that the women of the Joint Trade Union Movement wish to highlight three significant areas which would greatly benefit from your intervention: 
1. Women’s ability to balance work and family life
2. Women’s rights at the workplace
3. Ensuring “worker” status for Domestic Workers

It is evident therefore that there is a critical need to address ways to strike a necessary balance between a woman’s work life and family life. We call on you to safeguard the interest of working women and their children by advocating for the establishment of workplace-based child care services across ministries or the implementation of other appropriate models.

In her August 2012 newspaper article “Women’s economic achievements, challenges since independence” gender policy consultant
Dr. Rawwida Baksh advocates that “the Government and private sector need to do much more to enable women to strike a balance between their responsibility for the home and paid work. They need daycare centres for pre-school children, after-school centres for school-age children, and assistance in caring for the elderly and disabled if they are expected to be effective members of the paid workforce.” She further suggests that “Economic policies that support both women’s responsibility for the home and family (through, for example, daycare and after-school centres) as well as their business endeavours, would not only enhance gender equality but also increase economic growth.”

Last year, Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank researchers revealed in their study “Female labour force participation: the case of Trinidad and Tobago” that the presence of children in the household, accessing social security programmes, and chronic illness had negative effects on women participating in the paid labour force.

We are confident that you are best positioned to advocate for these matters and that your voice would weigh significantly in a national discourse on the same. 
We also note with grave concern that women’s workplace rights are far too often violated at the whim and fancy of employers. Female employees, across various sectors are frequently subject to sexual harassment, dismissal when found to be pregnant or unwell, denied employment if unmarried or pregnant, and still earn less than men even if they are equally as qualified and perform similar tasks. 

There is a dearth of statistical data in these areas but significant anecdotal evidence and first had accounts suggest that these “misdemeanours” are much more prevalent than highlighted, particularly in the unregulated industries, informal sectors and un-unionised businesses. Madame Minister, these women also need protection. We urge you to press unflinchingly towards establishment of national policies, such as the long awaited Gender Policy, to ensure that their lives and livelihoods are secured. 

Ida LeBlanc, General Secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE) and the Executive are often the lone voices in the struggle on behalf of domestic workers. Decades of committed and consistent work by Clotil Walcott, founder of NUDE and now Ida LeBlanc and NUDE’s Executive borne fruit in 2011 with the victory at the 100th Session of the International Labour Organisation where both the Convention on Domestic Workers and the accompanying Recommendation were adopted with overwhelming support. 

Trinidad and Tobago fervently supported the convention, but has failed to since ratify it. We call on you to use the power of your good office to ensure that the government of Trinidad and Tobago ratify the Convention on Domestic Workers to enshrine these workers’ rights and long overdue protections. 

Domestic workers, many of whom are women often suffer at the hand of their employers. Many are sexually harassed, some physically violated, and far too many are arbitrarily fired for suspicions of pregnancy, illness or other unfounded matters. Once Trinidad and Tobago ratifies the conventions and makes the necessary amendments to the Industrial Relations Act to officially include domestic workers as “workers”, it will be a first, but significant step towards ensuring their rights at their workplaces. 

Undoubtedly, addressing these critical issues do not only benefit women in our society, but they redound well for all our society. 

We look forward to your response. 



Denise Peters
BIGWU Women’s Committee
For and on behalf of the
Women of the Joint Trade Union Movement