A Retired Member’s Perspective of Women’s Conference 2022
I always enjoy UNISON’s Women’s Conference because there are bound to be excellent debates and without exception the speakers are knowledgeable and supportive of each other. Each year there will be emotive exchanges in which women tell their personal stories of adversity and abuse knowing that they will have the support of their fellow delegates. Self-organisation has empowered us and given us the opportunity to campaign together, celebrate our achievements and show solidarity. Throughout these conferences women are able to tell their own life stories of the difficulties they have faced within the workplace and beyond.
The experience of a virtual conference this year was a little different, not quite so inspirational because there weren’t the same opportunities to interact with other delegates. It may not have been ideal but given the current pandemic it made sense and given the impact of storms Dudley and Eunice it was perhaps for the best.
It’s another opportunity make the voice of retired members heard and as such I spoke in two debates. The first “Part Time Employees and Progression at Work – a Women’s Issue”. I stated that part-time women workers in the public and voluntary sectors play a vital role yet the injustice of low pay and part-time work continues into retirement where part-time workers are poorly served by the pension system. Economic inequality in working years has a detrimental impact on future pension income. In speaking on “The effect of Covid 19 on Women’s Lives” I spoke of the heavy toll that Covid has exacted on many of the most vulnerable in society, including many retired members who have suffered extreme loneliness and isolation. Women are amongst the forgotten heroes of the pandemic.
For a union in which more than75% of its membership are women our General Secretary Christina McAnea should be an inspiration to us all, telling us that women “are a powerhouse within the union”. She continued that self-organised groups are “a formidable force” and that we need more women coming through into key union positions and we must fight for change to make society a better and fairer place.
Chair UNISON National Retired Members Committee