Themes for the @ucu #ucuwomen conference

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In my spare moments I am the Equality Officer for the local branch of the UCU at the University of Southampton.  I haven’t been in the role very long and they have very kindly sent me all the way to Manchester to the Equality Conference.  I am always intrigued if I attend non-educational techy events because I see how people would normally talk/present.  Normally there is Powerpoint but the speakers just got up and talked (using notes but that’s fine).  If they’d had used electronic media we could shared their talks and you’d had been able to comment too.

The conference is over three days and I am here for the Women’s conference which was today and the conference for everyone tomorrow. The UCU Women are very passionate and have talked frankly about issues that are of huge importance.  The conference today has provided me with mixed emotions from listening to Diane Marsden an employee of Care UK the people who won the bid or as she put it the won because they were the ‘lowest bidder’ the poor employees are victims of the gradually privatisation of our NHS.  She told us stories of incidences of inappropriate staff attending to people who could suffer because of their lack of experience, she talked of having her pay cut by 23%.  23% whilst her new boss is on £800,000.  She said they went on strike because they believed in what they did, they care about their work, they worked in the NHS because they wanted to help people.  But Cameron came in a sold it off to people to make money from the sick.

Next up we heard about Sex workers and how the policies and practices put in place have had a negative impact on their lives and their safety.  It seemed we had two speakers with two differing (not completely different) viewpoints.  One represented Object and the other represented the English Collective of Prostitutes.  Horrible stories of mistreatment of victims, criminalisation of sex workers has led to terrible things happening.

Then Julian Blanc was mentioned. I’d never heard of him until today and I wish I hadn’t. Apparently he thinks he’s a stud and he can show men how to pick up women.  One method, hugely successful, is to show men how to grab women and attack them, #chokingwomen (literally) by the neck and put them in an armlock.  Nice.  I’m sure he’ll live happily ever after.  15 minutes of fame and all that. I’m not even going to bother linking to articles about him. It made me angry to think that he hasn’t been sectioned.  I don’t wish him harm. I wish him help.

More importantly, the issue was raised about our pensions and how equality is an issue here.  Many women work part-time, earn less than men (because they are women) and are on zero hours contracts.  A perfect cocktail for no pension fund.  What little pension they may get is being looked after by men with lots of money and higher salaries who have little regard or insight into their circumstances. I’m paraphrasing but feelings were running high and the mood was that equality hasn’t been very high on the agenda in the fight against the destruction of the pension scheme (in the press or otherwise).

One last thing, the NUS Womens Officer, Susanna Antubam came along.  She has been working on a report called Lad Culture (actually the title was ‘What she said’) she has been raising awareness about things people say, its not just about going out and getting drunk.  It’s about making comments and the impact words can have on people. Something positive to end the day really because she said what she has been doing has been making a difference.  The campaigns included “I heart consent” raising issues around what consent is at university and other education institutions.  The focus should be education not punishment.

Now, enough.   It’s nearly time to go and meet more people and chat about making a difference. Which is why I’m involved in all of this in the first place 🙂

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