International Women’s Day 2019 is a momentous day for women transport workers around the world for many reasons. Today, the ITF and the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) have just signed a joint agreement to strengthen women’s employment in public transport.
ITF and UITP will work with unions and employers to strengthen women’s employment, equal opportunities and decent work. This will focus on issues such as working culture, gender stereotypes, recruitment, health and safety and pay equality. The ITF’s Our Public Transport (OPT) programme and Women’s Department have been working tirelessly to achieve this ambitious agreement which creates a framework for affiliates to negotiate real gains for women transport workers.
Women transport workers are more exposed than ever to gender-based and workplace violence, harassment, and occupational segregation. A quarter of all women have been sexually harassed at work and two thirds of women transport workers have experienced violence at work. Women also suffer from a lack of access to toilets and safe resting places in transport workplaces.
Women are already disadvantaged as new technology is introduced into transport. Opportunities for training are essential to ensure that women gain access to new jobs when transport infrastructure is introduced or upgraded, including training to gain driving licences, or operate new technological systems.
Women are attracted by the flexibility that platform work can offer, although there are issues with equal access and decent work, including employment status. Women working in the platform economy also face a higher threat of violence and harassment. Platform jobs tend to be in contact with the public; in situations that are not sufficiently covered or protected by labour law and social protections; during unsocial working hours (such as the evening and at night); alone, in relative isolation and in remote locations; and, in intimate spaces and private homes.
The ITF is campaigning for a strong, new international standard on violence and harassment at work. Women’s rights, dignity and empowerment must be at the centre of this agenda. On this day, we celebrate women transport workers fighting to change transport globally for the benefit of all workers. The issues women are fighting for– equality, rights, safety, democracy – affect every transport worker. Women’s rights are not separate to workers’ rights. They are at the heart of the international labour movement.
Happy International Women’s Day from everyone at the ITF.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF