Christine Golding reports back from TUC Women’s Conference

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I accompanied the GMB delegates to the 85th TUC women’s Conference held on 9th, 10th and 11th March 2016 and I didn’t know what to expect! I thought I would sit back and observe the conference from a slight distance.

In the morning I arrived to a pre-conference meeting to go over the motions. I followed my plan I sat back and observed.

There were so many different motions being put forward, from Women against the Trade Union Bill to Bullying and harassment in the workplace, Housing, food poverty, the gender pay gap, low pay in the care sector the list went on. In fact there were 42 motions to be voted in in the 3 days. I thought it would be best I sat back and observe.

One of the speaker was Kate McAlevery a union organiser and author from the United States. She spoke about strategies on how we as activists can start campaigns concerning out members issues.

She presented a web chart with the member in middle, with the overall question, “How do we encourage the member to speak out about their working environment, if other areas in their lives need addressing? “

Kate said “Every campaign should start on a local issue that is relevant to your member. “

We were introduced to a chart called Community Campaign. This web chart highlighted what support systems a member has around them that can be accessed to start a campaign which in turn creates change. E.g : their Spouse, Faith, Adult sport teams, Local politician, Social Media, Other unions, children’s sports team. It is at this point I moved away from observing the conference to engaging in the debate. I started to feel a part of the conference and the ethos of moving forward and change.

Motion 37 caught my eye, as I had just come back from Calais. I decided to make a speech to the delegates on “Women and the refugee crisis.”

“I accompanied a delegation of teachers from Lambeth schools to Calais over half-term to distribute donations writing materials, clothes, tents and food.

What I saw gave me nightmares, there are no words to describe the cold, mud and filth.

There is no place to keep clean. Cleanses is something we take for granted.

I saw children trying to receive an education in a place where distractions are all around them.  I saw adults coming in and out of the jungle school. (Whoever described it as a ‘jungle’ has obviously never been to a jungle.

I saw no exotic wildlife, or beautiful exciting habitat no sweet musty smell of a rainforest, just cold filthy mud.

Yet these children seemed so keen to learn and happy to be in school.

It breaks your heart.

I also met women and children who were isolated and vulnerable. But grateful for being so close to being in England.

 My parents came to Britain in the 50’s as emigrates. They were invited to come to Britain to help rebuild the great in Great Britain. They stayed for 10 years. In that time they felt isolated, vulnerable and were subjected to racism. Not that different from what the refugees are subjected to.

My parents saw how the climate of the country was going and felt they didn’t want their children to be brought up in this country. Just like the refugees.

My parents left England and travelled to a country where they felt there children would be given a better opportunity.

Just like the refugees. We ended up in Canada. That’s where the similarities end. We had a happy ending.

We should ensure the refugees have a happy ending.

We who are the children of emigrates should show compassion to refugee on behalf of our parents and grandparents who left their homes to give their children a better life.”

 I’m glad I stopped observing and became a part of the GMB delegation, you have to have a desire for to change and a sense of fairness to all.