i had a bit of a quieter weekend this time, with only 3 meetings. one of these was for the ethnic women's network, and we had sonya church from the young worker's resource centre come along and talk to the women about workplace rights.
poor sonya had trouble getting a word in, with the women so keen to discuss the issues that were important to them. it was a lively meeting, and their stories of discrimination and frustration were really quite sad. it's clear that the law can not protect them effectively, especially when the consequences of making a complaint can be pretty drastic.
there was a definite difference between the women who were educated and in professional work as compared to those in unskilled work. the discrimination in job interviews seemed to be a common feature, but once they had got the job, the professional women seemed to be better able to deal with workplace issues. there's a real power imbalance for women in lower skilled jobs, and because many of them work for small businesses, there's no union representation either.
while sonya was telling us about employment contracts and negotiating the terms, the practical reality for some of these women was that the contract basically went out the window when they got to work. and because it was so hard for them to get a job and they desperately needed to keep it, they felt that there was no choice but to work under the conditions they were given.
it's really hard to know how to empower these women to feel stronger in their work places, and especially when we have a government that is determined to reduce work place rights. just last week the law that enforced work breaks was repealed. i don't think there is the political will in this government to improve the working lives of these women, and that is heartbreaking.
i've had a couple of posts up at the hand mirror last week, one about research comparing the well-being of mothers across different countries, another one on the performance of women and minorities in the uk elections, and another about how sad it is to watch the process of turning natural talent into a commercialised product on american idol.