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Our Work Our Lives 2011 Dili, Timor-Leste 4th conference on women and industrial relations (Now International) ` 1-2 September 2011

A/Prof Suzanne Franzway Research Centre for Gender Studies University of South Australia


A joint initiative between: Working Women's Centres Australia and Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA Began as a Network
To be launched at 4th Our Work Our Lives: Women and Industrial Relations Conference, Timor Leste on September 1 & 2, 2011. This work contributes to the larger political and discursive alliances between feminists and union movements, and their campaigns to confront the difficult political and strategic issues that are relevant to working women.


To achieve decent work for women goal of ILO. Women do two-thirds of the worlds work, receive 10 percent of the worlds income and own 1 percent of the means of production.
"It is no longer possible to protect workers' rights in one country, while in neighbouring countries with whom we trade, workers face exploitation and sweatshop conditions. The fight for workers' rights in one country has to be a fight for workers' rights in every country. (Make Life Fair Everywhere campaign.) Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

This paper is part of a larger project (Franzway & Fonow, 2011)

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Educate, educate, educate (ILO) separate organising, campaigns, leadership positions But, numbers are not enough to make structural, cultural and discursive change Change needs political, material and discursive resources So feminists make alliances with feminists from other social movements, NGOs and trade unions.

For activism to be relevant to women workers, then worker organizations, NGOs and social movements must develop the political spaces where women can make collective politics. How much political activism people do depends on the power and resources available to them. Resources and capacities for political action are produced within sexual politics. Sexual politics = politics of gender relations which impact on political opportunities and social identities.

Women activists with feminist politics are a minority so have strong incentives to work across state and organizational borders to make alliances. E.g. the World March of Women brings women together from peace organizations, community groups, and trade unions in a global campaign for peace and equality.

Trade Union Movements: ` Trade unions have resources for feminist politics ` history of international alliances and political activism ` 40% women membership ` But also history of conflicts ` Sexual politics

Community-based mediating institutions, support & organise workers ` 1. Diverse structures & funding ` 2. Intersection of ethnic & gender & class ` 3. Place-based cf work-site based ` 4. Broad agenda ` 5. Service (eg legal, training, mediation) ` 6. Advocacy ` 7. Organising ` 8. Leadership development ` 9. Global orientation ` 10. Coalitions & alliances ` 11. Small, active membership

Based on Janice Fine, 2006

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Not-for-profit, community organisations Funded by the state and Labour movement Advocacy Gains Tensions

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Established in 1979 From: renewed and growing awareness of women @ work Experiences Problems Politics By feminist and union activists

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Goals of social change, beyond service Feminist analysis Collectivity processes Effective organising Building community & support Own working conditions Womens safe space Networking other services Alliances

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Provide a free and confidential service on work related issues. For women who are not represented by a union, their own lawyer or other advocate, To increase women's participation in work and negotiating conditions, including: Individual case work (industrial and Equal Rights) Training programs on working women's issues Work with unions to gain true equality for women members Encourage women to take an active part in their union Promote gender equity through research & policy development, committees and campaigns


collective or management?

Conflicts over roles, alliances and political autonomy,


Strings and conditions

Conflicts over funding sources

`Service/case `Individual

work OR campaign?

case work helps individual women, but also provides evidence of womens work issues. `Useful for campaigns (& funding). ` But casework is never ending ` How to balance individual cases with campaigns and advocacy?

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Decent womens work, paid & unpaid, is crucial for gender equity. It is important for womens citizenship. Activism around womens social-economic rights if women are to play their part in achieving gender equity. Feminist alliances between women and labour movements are creating political spaces, national and international networks and community organizations to mobilize around workers issues
Working Womens Centres are important examples.

Its not good enough to be right. Its important to win something. In order to win something, we need to agree on something. That something does not need to be an over-arching preordained ideology into which we force-fit our delightfully fractious, argumentative selves. It does not need to be an unquestioning allegiance to one or another form of resistance to the exclusion of everything else. It could be a minimum agenda.
Arundhati Roy, Plenary, World Social Forum, Mumbai, January, 2004

See also: Moghadam, V., Franzway, S. & Fonow, M.M. (eds) Making Globalization Work for Women: Women Workers Social Rights and Trade Union Leadership SUNY Press (October, 2011)