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Friday 22 March 2024

FDA at the TUC Women’s Conference 2024

The FDA sent a delegation of seven members to the TUC Women’s Conference 2024, held at Congress House 6-8 March. These conferences are a fantastic opportunity for our members to engage with the wider trade union movement and to share issues and priorities with other unions.
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FDA delegation left to right: Honey Butterworth, Marie Knox, Margaret Haig, Gursharan Kaur, Emma Kinloch, Leila Kelly, and Cyara Buchuck-Wilsenach

Every year the TUC hosts a series of equality conferences that supplement the general work of TUC Congress. These conferences focus on supporting the advancement of issues that disproportionally impact minority groups. Earlier this month, FDA members joined hundreds of delegates from a range of TUC-affiliated unions at the TUC’s Women’s Conference.

The TUC Women’s Conference 2024 created its usual  inspiring and supportive environment, culminating on 8 March - International Women’s Day. 

Conference heard from TUC President, Matt Wrack, TUC General Secretary, Paul Nowak, and Shadow Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, Anneliese Dodds.

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FDA Vice President Margaret Haig moving a motion

Our lead delegate, FDA Vice President Margaret Haig said: 

“This year’s TUC Women’s Conference was really great for the FDA, and for me… There were opportunities to learn from each other in our own group, as well as gain inspiration from other women in the room and in fringe events. As always, I was both saddened and uplifted by different issues, and came away proud to have led our delegation and with a desire to make a difference for women back in my own working environment. I really hope more women consider attending as delegates or visitors at next year’s conference, and are inspired to inclusion of women in their workplaces, too.”

The FDA submitted two motions to Conference: on online abuse and on flexible working. Like many other motions, ours were 'composited' (combined with similar motions from other unions). FDA Vice Presidents, Leila Kelly and Margaret Haig, moved the online abuse and flexible working motions respectively.

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FDA Vice President Leila Kelly moving a motion

Kelly described her pride at the FDA's contribution to conference and highlighted the value of being part of the wider trade union movement. Kelly added, “some women made very moving speeches about the challenges that they had faced at work, and it was inspiring to hear the difference to women’s lives that trade unions can make.”

FDA delegate Emma Kinloch reported: 

“Women’s experience of online abuse is well documented and is growing. Employers must increase their support for women workers to feel safe in the use of online platforms such as WhatsApp and Teams. Additionally, truly flexible working has been shown to benefit both employers and employees. We called on TUC Women’s Committee to ensure access to flexible working is available for women and to investigate the impact on the gender pay gap if access to flexible working was reduced.”

Two of our delegates, Cyara Buchuck-Wilsenach and Gursharan Kaur, spoke passionately in support of other unions' motions - on unpaid carers and the menopause.

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FDA delegate Cyara Buchuck-Wilsenach speaking in support of motion

Reflecting on her time at Conference, Buchuck-Wilsenach said: 

“Emotional work and mental caring are forms of labour. Unpaid care work involves many forms of physical, mental, and emotional labour, and recognising this all as work is the first step needed to make this often invisible work visible. 50% of working-age women provide over 45 hours each week of unpaid care in the home. This unpaid labour largely consists of childcare and is worth an additional £382 billion annually. This is separate to the £132 billion of labour encompassed in more traditional definitions of unpaid care work (such as caring for disabled or elderly relatives)Many women work reduced hours in order to do this caring work, and as a result earn less than their male counterparts. The 'wages for housework' movement is 52 years old this year. The motion put forward to the TUC women's conference which resolved to seek ways to compensate more fairly for, better recognise, and support unpaid carers and their work, has its roots in this movement.” 

Marie Knox: “My highlights include having the opportunity to hear about women’s experiences across a wide range of sectors; being part of a larger delegation than last year’s and making connections with colleagues from across the FDA. The civil service is very different now compared to when I first joined but still isn't a fully equal workplace for women. Wanting young women joining the department to have a better experience than I did motivates my campaigning for change. It was great to have the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with our youngest FDA members, from our Fast Stream, about how we can support women and design the workplace to fit women's lives as much as men's.”

Honey Butterworth: “I was honoured to attend TUC Women’s Conference, representing FDA Fast Streamers.. Gender inequalities have been exacerbated in recent years, and I was particularly taken by the discussions led by women navigating predominantly male sectors, organising, and winning in their workplaces.

As a young woman, it was a great chance to meet inspiring women across the civil service and beyond, celebrating the cultural, economic, political, and social value of women. I leave feeling a huge sense of gratitude for the opportunity to participate, and with a new lease of energy to apply to our work within the Fast Stream branch.”

Emma Kinloch: As a first-time attendee of TUC Women’s Conference I was delighted to meet my fellow FDA delegates. Listening to the motions debated I was struck by how often the challenges working women face are so similar, despite working in a variety of fields. The conference itself was an extremely supportive environment, with a real sisterhood evident. I was happy to see the FDA’s contribution to motions which directly impact the working lives of our members.”

Get involved 

If members want to help shape the union’s equality work, they can apply to be part of the FDA delegation for TUC Women’s Conference 2025. Calls for applications will go out to all members in late summer/autumn 2024.
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