At our Annual General Meeting (AGM), Bootle Taxes Branch elects a branch women’s advisory committee (BWAC), which is chaired by the women’s officer who reports to the branch executive committee (BEC) on its activity. This is not because we believe in committees for their own sake, but because a BWAC is a useful way of involving women in the union at workplace level.
The 2015/16 BWAC are:
Hayley Caruana, Caroline Kinsella, Justine Lloyd, Rosetta Luca, Helen Sheridan, Sharon O’Neill (Women’s Officer)
Why do we need a branch women’s advisory committee?
The committee provides the BEC with valuable input into policies and negotiations on issues that are important to women members, e.g. childcare, maternity leave, etc.
It is important to stress at the outset that the objectives of the BWAC should not be swamped by bureaucracy. Of course, there must be accountability and there must be a clear link to the BEC but the fundamental objective of involving women in union activity and making such activity enjoyable should not be lost sight of amidst more trivial details such as constitutional niceties and who takes the minutes.
What does a branch women’s advisory committee do?
In general terms, the committee:
- Advises the BEC on matters which particular affect women members
- Considers proposals of concern to women from management
- Monitors the effectiveness of equal opportunity programmes in the workplace
- Liaises with group women’s advisory and equality committees
- Assists the branch to recruit women locally and monitor women’s recruitment levels
- Encourages women’s participation in PCS activities
- Encourages women to stand for the BEC and other positions in the union, (at group and national level)
- Encourages women’s applications to education courses
- Talks to women in the branch to assess their concerns/priorities
How does the BWAC establish its programme of work?
The BWAC is responsible for setting its own programme of work, based on an assessment of the concerns of women in the branch.
Some BWACs have felt that the best way to do this is to send out a questionnaire to all women members and ask them to identify what their priorities and opinions are. Such a method also provides a further opportunity for women to put themselves forward for membership of BWAC.
Listed below are some of the ways in which we encourage the participation of women in branch activity.
Meetings can be organised for women to express their views about what the union is or isn’t, could or should be doing.
Open-ended questions such as “what do you think of your union?” or “what should your union be doing for you?” should have the effect of attracting all shades of opinion and debate.
Such discussions provide the perfect opportunity for union activists not only to listen to what women are saying, but also to present the gains the union has made in such areas as childcare, part-time workers’ provisions, paternity, maternity and family leave.
Women who may otherwise steer clear of formal union meetings, may be interested in attending meetings on particular issues of concern and these issues may well be identified by means of the questionnaire mentioned earlier.
Consideration is also given on occasions to holding meetings on topics other than the normal policy issues. Issues such as health, the arts, sexuality, etc, can produce lively and interesting meetings and be just as effective in generating interest and involvement in the Union and its work.