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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU Gender Activists holds a National Gender workshop to tackle workplace challenges faced by both men and women

10 September 2015

The Congress of South African Trade Union’s Gender Activists from all affiliates are attending a two-day national workshop to empower each other on how to tackle gender issues at the shop floor level.

South African workplaces have seen a rising number of cases registered on sexual harassment at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA] and the recent Special National Congress resolved that the Federation must enhance hosting of gender workshop to eradicate the incidences through advocacy and workers’ education.

Opening the National Gender Workshop, COSATU’s President, Comrade Sdumo Dlamini emphasized that ‘Gender issues are Trade Unions issues. And we must never be silent when such outrageous acts of gender discrimination are meted against workers at all workplaces and also in society’.

‘We must empower both men and women on gender issues to realize envisaged outcomes of promoting gender equality in society. COSATU must continue to implement all Congress resolutions related to taking gender struggles forward. And we must without any hesitance confront recurrence of sexual harassment incidences by being principled, fair and objective’, elaborated Cde Dlamini

‘COSATU supports the gender struggles led by Gender Activists in all structures’, declared Cde Dlamini.

The Special National Congress alluded to a fact that ‘women continue to be discriminated against both in society and in the workplace, the workplace environment is constantly characterized by gender and economic discrimination, women workers conditions are least protected, economic and maternity protection remains a matter of concern. When women drop out of the labour force to bearing and raising children, they typically suffer consequences in terms of career progression and retirement/social security benefits and loose out more on their year’s earnings’.

The Special National Congress resolved that the first Central Executive Committee [CEC] should develop a programme of action on gender struggles which will deal with the following:

- To ensure that the office matter involving the staff member and the former leader is used to popularise COSATU’s gender polices. We reject the spreading of conspiracy theory which characterised this matter as political. This was about power relations in the workplace tilted against the women worker. It must be understood in the context of women’s struggles in the workplace and power relations in society generally. In this regard the federation should elevate, implement and defend its gender policy and code of conduct regarding sexual harassment in the workplace and in society in general.

- A discussion document must be developed on gender struggles focusing on the current challenges facing women in society and in the workplace.

- Fight to reclaim the dignity of work and the rights of women workers and people living with disability

- Organise more women and map out workplace plans to improve women job security, pay and conditions

- Campaign for decent work, decent life for women and in particular pay equity, ratification of ILO Conversation 183 on Maternity Protection

- Heighten the campaigning against discrimination

The workshop exposed some forms of sexual harassment which all workers, both men and women must be empowered about to be challenged at all times. And Young workers were called upon to be vigilant to expose such improper acts.

Some of the incidences of sexual harassment as extensively narrated by the CCMA may include ‘unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct, but is not limited to the examples listed as follows:

(a) Physical conduct of a sexual nature includes all unwanted physical contact, ranging from touching to sexual assault and rape, and includes a strip search by or in the presence of the opposite sex.
(b) Verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome innuendoes, suggestions and hints, sexual advances, comments with sexual overtones, sex-related jokes or insults or unwelcome graphic comments about a person’s body made in their presence or directed toward them, unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person’s sex life, and unwelcome whistling directed at a person or group of persons.
(c) Non-verbal forms of sexual harassment include unwelcome gestures, indecent exposure, and the unwelcome display of sexually explicit pictures and objects.
(d) Quid pro quo harassment occurs where an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee, undertakes or attempts to influence the process of employment, promotion, training, discipline, dismissal, salary increment or other benefit of an employee or job applicant, in exchange for sexual favours’.

COSATU National Workshop is duly attended by Affiliate’s National Office Bearers and Gender Coordinators, who are on a regular basis handling gender empowerment programmes benefiting workers at the shop floor level across all provinces.

‘Cases of sexual harassment may be pursued informally and formally at all workplaces’, added Comrade Zingiswa Losi, who is the COSATU 2nd Deputy President and also responsible for gender affairs within the Federation.

The workshop has received various presentations from NALEDI, ILO and also has attendance of other labour service organizations such as DITSELA, Solidarity Center to share their experiences in dealing with gender issues.

The National Gender workshop is scheduled to conclude its business on Friday, 11th September 2015, with a consolidated submission of a sexual harassment reviewed policy for the coming ordinary National Congress in November to debate and resolve on.

Note:

The Commission on Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA] Code of Good Practice on Sexual Harassment is provided in the link for empowerment

http://www.ccma.org.za/Display.asp?L1=34&L2=68

Issued by COSATU

Norman Mampane (Acting National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street

Braamfontein

2017

P.O.Box 1019

Johannesburg

2000

South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 or Direct 010 219-1342

Mobile: +27 72 416 3790

E-Mail: Mampane@cosatu.org.za

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