Hospo Voice

A woman’s place is in her union

March 8, 2021

Content warning: This article discusses sexual harassment and assault.

What we’re choosing to challenge this International Women’s Day

Choose to challenge. That’s the theme of International Women’s Day 2021.

We’re at a potentially historic crossroads in Australia right now. Women’s rights, sexual assault and harassment are at the very centre of our national conversation. Our Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, is a childhood abuse survivor, we’ve heard horrifying stories of rape in parliament and while this goes on, one woman a week continues to be killed by her current or former partner.

You’ve probably felt confronted by some stuff you’ve read recently, we sure have. But we need to have these tough conversations because hopefully they will lead to real change for women.

We thought we’d look at how far we’ve come and what we are choosing to challenge this International Women’s Day.

How did International Women’s Day begin?

The seeds of International Women’s Day began in 1908 when 30,000 garment workers, mainly migrant women, marched through New York demanding better pay and conditions. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America commemorated that strike with a National Women’s Day. 

In August 1910, the International Conference of Socialist Working Women created International Working Women’s Day. They wanted to commemorate the garment workers’ victory and to provide support for the growing international campaign for a woman’s right to vote. 

In Australia, the Militant Women’s Movement organised the first IWD rally in 1928. They demanded equal pay, an eight-hour day for shop women and annual holidays on full pay.

How far have we come?

These days, we use International Women’s Day to celebrate our achievements. Women’s rights have come a long way since 1910. But we’re not there yet. According to the World Economic Forum, none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime, and neither will our children. You only have to read the news each day to see there’s still a disturbing amount of gender discrimination and violence. 

At Hospo Voice, we hear first-hand accounts about what it’s really like in some workplaces. Here are some women who have asked questions about gender discrimination and harassment on Mobilise or have left reviews on Fair Plate

“I told my boss I’m pregnant, and he was incredibly hostile towards me. He said I was f**king useless to him now.”

“If you are female, stay away. You will get sexually harassed by senior management and if you catch the owner’s eye you have two choices, sleep with him or be bullied out.”

“Are my bosses allowed to tell me to put makeup on even though I am clean and well presented?”

“I made a sexual harassment complaint and my hours were reduced.”

WTAF. It makes us so mad that we have to cop this in our workplace. 

That some employers think it’s their right to belittle us, to harass us, to demean us and treat us like we’re second-class citizens.

So what are we doing about it?

At Hospo Voice, this is what we’re #choosingtochallenge.

1. We want security

We have all been treated as disposable for too long. We’re fighting for a secure and sustainable future in hospo. 

Over half of Australia’s two million casual workers are women. Women are more likely to be in part time, casual, insecure work and are more likely to be underemployed. The COVID-19 recession was even dubbed the ‘Shesession’ because it affected women far more than men. We will continue to demand for security in the hospitality industry.

Unfortunately, it’s even worse for migrant women. Those on temporary visas experience even more precarious working conditions. We want migrant workers to have stronger rights and better protections.

2. We want safety

Did you know that 89% of women in our survey said they’d been sexually harassed at work? 19% have been sexually assaulted. It’s bloody horrifying. 

We encourage all employers sign up to Respect is the Rule and have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in our workplaces. This means employers remove patrons who harass staff or other customers. Sexual harassment has to stop.

3. We want super

Women’s superannuation balances are 47% lower than men’s. Women are more likely to experience poverty and have to rely on government or family support in retirement. 

Our superannuation system may be the envy of the world but it was designed by men, for men. We need to address the fact that it disadvantages women. 

They should abolish the $450 per month minimum threshold, super should be paid for all paid and unpaid care-related absences, and the Government should proceed with planned legislated increases to the superannuation guarantee of 12%.

So what can I do?

There’s so much you can do! We all need to do our bit to call out gender bias and inequality.

Join your union

It’s thanks to unions that we now have the 8-hour day, parental leave and equal pay regardless of race. Being in a union is not just about learning about your rights and how to fight for them. It’s also about getting together with other workers to improve conditions. 

At Hospo Voice, we set up the Respect is the Rule campaign, a powerful campaign to stamp out sexual harassment in hospitality. Dozens of venues around the country have publicly pledged to make respect the rule in their workplaces. 

We’ve also been campaigning against wage theft with some amazing results. Our union women have led, and won, some epic campaigns to criminalise wage theft in Queensland and Victoria. 

Call out sexual harassment

If you’ve experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, make a report if you can. We know how difficult it is, but by calling out harassment, it may stop other women experiencing the same behaviour. There are many tribunals and commissions where you can do that. 

If you’d prefer to start with a helpline service, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Don’t forget to warn other workers about dangerous or disrespectful workplaces by leaving a review on Fair Plate.

Celebrate International Women’s Day

Choose to challenge. Raise your hand and put a picture on social media saying you’re committed to #choosetochallenge. Celebrate the achievements of women, question stereotypes and call out inequality.

Join us and help us make other historic changes to improve the lives of all women in hospitality.

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