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Violence against women was high on the list of several topics for discussion at this year’s second meeting of the National Women’s Committee (NWC), held October 14 and 15 at the CUPE National office in Ottawa.

Rashida Collins and Michelle McGuire, guest-speakers from the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), spoke about how their Sisters In Spirit campaign is working to address violence against Aboriginal women, who are victimized at much higher rates than the rest of the population.

NWC co-chair Helen Kennedy was very impressed by the Sisters In Spirit presentation.

It was excellent” said Kennedy. “Combating violence against women has been an important part of the Committee’s work over the years and supporting Sisters In Spirit is a specific way for us to engage with the community to help deal with this problem.  We’ll incorporate this campaign as part of our work plan for the next two years.”

Another important part of the NWC’s ongoing work is the implementation and monitoring of the recommendations from the National Women’s Task Force (NWTF). Since the release of the recommendations in 2007 many positive steps have been taken in the advancement of women’s issues in CUPE, but there is still work to be done.

Committee members at the meeting developed strategies for implementing and monitoring these broad-ranging recommendations.

National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux attended part of the meeting and spoke about the development of a Code of Conduct, an important NWTF initiative recently adopted by the National Executive Board.   Developed by CUPE’s Equality Branch in consultation with the NWC and others, the code addresses acceptable modes of behaviour at national union events such as conferences and schools.

The Code of Conduct is a big step forward for us. It was one of the top priorities for the task force and something that we’re really proud of” said Kennedy. “I hope it will become an integral part of CUPE at all levels. It’s a statement of our commitment to create a more inclusive and respectful union.”

The committee also discussed the ongoing promotion of the Women Breaking Barriers workshop in all regions. The workshop covers issues like women’s oppression, politics and social change and helps women identify ways of overcoming the barriers to more active participation in the union.

Having the Women Breaking Barriers course has made a big difference” said NWC co-chair Barb Moore. “Members are able to see where and how inequalities are happening and why we need to get more involved in leadership roles in the union.”

Other highlights from the meeting included a presentation on the Living Wage/Decent Work campaign on the significance of the increasing number of members in low–wage part-time or casual jobs, and Secretary-Treasurer Généreux’s discussion of CUPE’s recent pension campaign. Approximately 100,000 CUPE members, many of whom are women, do not have a workplace pension–a great concern for the NWC and CUPE as a whole.