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International Women’s Day is always an important event. Women around the world celebrate the achievements that advance women’s equality by marching, singing, participating in education, throwing parties just to name a few actions. The day is also to mobilize women to fight for equality. This year more than ever women, and men, need to be active in our communities and in CUPE locals to make a statement about protecting and advancing women’s rights.

EI harder to collect for women

The Conservative federal government has a full frontal attack on women. They failed to improve Employment Insurance (EI) so that workers, most notably women, who are terminated from work have an income which will enable them to continue to support their families. The hours of work needed to collect EI is difficult for many women who work part-time, take leaves to care for family members or for bearing children. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) data show about 40% of women work part-time, temporary or contract, making it harder to be eligible to collect EI. Indeed, Statistics Canada figures tell us the qualification rate for women was 39%, compared with 45% for men and that only about 43% of jobless workers collected benefits in 2008.

Attack on pay equity

The Harper government budget announced that litigation is no longer an option for women seeking pay equity. This is outrageous given the experience that women working in federally regulated workplaces have had in their attempts to achieve pay equity. This move makes pay equity essentially impossible. Can you name a federally regulated employer that has agreed to provide pay equity through negotiations?  Union women have had to take complaints to the Human Rights Commission to force compliance with the law.

Canada failing child care

The failure of the Conservative government to retain the multilateral agreements with the provinces to provide funds for early learning and child care means tens of thousands of high quality, not-for profit child care spots are gone. Just recently, UNICEF published a study which rated Canada’s provision of early childhood education and care last among 25 developed countries.

Women’s inequality growing

The UN is currently hosting a conference on women’s human rights. According to FAFIA’s  September 2008 submission to the UN Committee on the elimination of discrimination against women, women’s inequality in Canada has worsened. To note a few facts: Single mothers have a poverty rate of 38.1% compared to 11.9% of single fathers; Of all senior women, 16.6% are poor compared to just 8.3% of men; 26% of women with disabilities fall below the poverty line, while 29% of women of colour are poor. The rate is even worse for African American women with a poverty rate of 57%; and 36% of Aboriginal women are poor. The federal government must take a leading role to be sure that not only are our international commitments to women upheld but so are our commitments to women in Canada. Provinces, too, have much to do to uphold their part of the bargain to ensure Canadian women’s human rights are provided and enforced.

CUPE members must take action

CUPE members and locals have a crucial and valuable part to play in achieving the human rights for CUPE women.

We have just come out of a very successful national women’s bargaining conference. Participants to the conference learnt about how today’s economy is hard on women but how we might use these times for making gains: implementing and supporting a living wage campaign, fighting privatization, language, issues and strategy to take to the bargaining table to advance women’s equality and much more.

CUPE members must take action to push our employers, locals and governments to move women’s human rights forward. Take action: