RCM Briefing – Report of the TUC Women's Conference, March 2019

RCM delegates attended the TUC Women’s Conference from 6-8 March this year where the theme was ‘Sisters in Solidarity’. Frances O’Grady the General Secretary of the TUC opened the conference with an inspiring speech that ensured we were off to a good start.

Other speakers included Dawn Butler, Shadow Women & Equalities Secretary and Scarlet Harris, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Maternity Action. The RCM joined delegates from a wide range of TUC affiliate unions including other health workers such as physiotherapists, podiatrists and dieticians.

The RCM delegation was made up of:

  • Alice Sorby, Employment Relations Advisor
  • Karen Edwards, Regional Head, South
  • Linda Allan, Regional Officer
  • Kate Evans, RCM Board Member
  • Charlotte Hartley, RCM Workplace Representative
  • Faye Wells, RCM Workplace Representative

The RCM’s two motions to the conference were, Fair Pay for Maternity Support Workers and Perinatal Mental Health – support for women wherever and whenever it’s needed, both were passed unanimously.

Our MSW motion focused on concerns around the inappropriate banding of MSWs and was seconded by the British Dietetic Association (BDA). Speakers from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and NASUWT (a teaching union) spoke about their positive experiences with MSWs when they were in hospital following the birth of their babies. The perinatal mental health motion called on the TUC to join the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and was seconded by Unison. The motion was also supported by a number of women talking about their own experiences. The RCM seconded a CSP motion Bullying and Harassment in the NHS. This was particularly pertinent given the 2018 NHS England staff survey results published 27 February showing an increase in the number of staff reporting harassment, bullying, or abuse at work.

Each conference delegates vote to send one motion to TUC Congress (the annual TUC conference that sets TUC policy for the coming year). This year Women’s Conference voted a motion on period poverty which highlighted the issue of those impacted by poverty being unable to afford sanitary protection.

What the RCM delegates though of the conference:

“As a Public Health Specialist Midwife as well as an RCM Board member, I was honoured to raise the motion on Perinatal Mental Health calling to support the Maternal Mental Health Alliance in ensuring all Health Boards / Trusts in UK have a specialist Perinatal Midwife. Hearing lived experiences was a stark reminder why this is so important for women with mental ill health across all industries. The shocking realisation for me is that no matter which union you are from, the issues women face in the workplace are the same. Feeling the support of the other unions there made the fight for equal pay, safety in the workplace and fair treatment a little bit closer to realisation. Sisters I salute you all!”

“There was an audible gasp in the room when it was announced that some MSW’s are still being paid as Band 2 in the NHS and it was great to see unanimous support for the motion! Overall the conference demonstrated how, as women, we have come a long way, but how there are still unacceptable issues being faced by women and girls not only in the workplace, but in their daily lives too.”

If you would like further information about TUC Women’s Conference or any other TUC conferences and events please contact Alice Sorby on [email protected].