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Women @ Work...a Healthy Balance

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					               QTU 2002 Biennial Women’s Conference

            Women @ Work...a Healthy Balance
Close to one hundred women members of the QTU gathered together on the first
two days of the June/July school vacation for the third Biennial QTU Women’s
Conference, to endeavour to find a healthy balance between work and the other
demands of personal and family life. The conference, held high in the mountains
at Clear Mountain Resort, provided a tranquil backdrop for women members to
take time out of their busy lives and focus on the issues at hand.

QTU Women’s Coordinator, Leah Mertens, welcomed delegates to the
conference, and invited Jenny Blunderfield, one of the conference delegates, to
give the traditional welcome on behalf of the Turabal People.

QTU President Julie-Ann McCullough, spoke of the importance of developing a
network of activists, particularly amongst women members, to enable advances
to be made in terms of women and promotional positions, which has and
continues to be, a priority for the Women’s Committee.

Julie-Ann highlighted the importance of continuing to be active following the
conference and reporting back to branches and schools, on the issues discussed
during the course of the conference as well as the outcomes of the conference.
She reported that all of the resolutions from the last Women’s conference in
2000 had been actioned, and many had been achieved.

Julie-Ann stated that it was particularly important to encourage younger
beginning teachers, most of whom are women, to become involved in the union.


Fiona Mc Namara, former QTU Organiser and currently Federal Women’s
Officer at the AEU, presented delegates with a summary of the Maternity and
associated entitlements for women teachers in other states and gave an overview
of the key points that will be included int he AEU submission to the Discussion
Paper “Valuing Parenthood; Options for Paid Maternity Leave-Interim Paper
2002"

The Keynote address was given by Sharan Burrow, President of the ACTU,
former President of the AEU, and long-time friend of the QTU.
Sharan gave a fascinating speech, entitled “21st Century Workplaces - Not
Friendly for Women”, which touched on issues such as gender imbalance in
Federal Parliament (where only 25% of the House of Reps are female)and in the
corporate sector only 3% of CEO’s are 2women.Sharan also spoke of the on-
going Pay Inequity for women workers which sees women earning on average
$166 less per week than men and the impact that increasing levels of
casualisation have had on the Australian workforce.
In terms of Paid Maternity Leave, less than 30% of Australian working women
have access to this entitlement.

Sharan also addressed the problem of workplace bullying and harassment and
acknowledged that this was an area that the ACTU was still working on. She
made mention of the struggle within the ALP to see women’s issues addressed
and spoke of the recent campaign launch for 50% women representation in
parliament, endorsed by the National Women’s Conference.

Sharan announced that the ACTU is hosting an international Global Women’s
Conference in February 2003, which will be attended by approximately 300
trade union women from all over the world. The theme for this conference is
“Unions for Women- Women for unions”

Workshops

Delegates had the opportunity to attend two of following four workshops;

•     Valuing Workplace Diversity and Equity” which was facilitated by Melissa
      Morris and her team from the Department’s Diversity and Equity Unit.

•     Paid Maternity Leave which was facilitated by Fiona McNamara, AEU
      Women’s Officer.

•     Women and Workplace Bullying” facilitated by Sharon Herbert,
      Women’s/Industrial Officer from the QCU.

•     Maximising Activism in the QTU, facilitated by two members of the
      women’s committee, Sam Knowles and Lea Formigoni.

Workshops debated a series of recommendations which were then presented to a
plenary session on Day 2 of the conference. The resolutions, (thirty-six in all
were carried), will be sent to Executive and State Council for information and
appropriate action. The Women’s Committee will closely monitor the progress
of the resolutions.

Conference Dinner

Women delegates were treated to a sumptious three course meal while listening
to Member for Algester, Karen Struthers. Karen entertained the audience by
asking a quick quiz, which was followed by a more serious explanation of life as
a female politician and tips on how to get elected to government.

John Battams, General Secretary, addressed the conference on Day 2,
highlighting the gains that the union has made over the last decade, and how this
has strengthened the unity amongst members in general, which assists greatly
when it comes to running campaigns around public education, teacher
conditions and salary.
Grace Grace, General Secretary of the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU)
spoke to the gathered delegates about the ACTU’s ten priorities for improving
Occupational Health and Safety for all workers, based on the notion that workers
sell their labour, not their health. Grace, who is a member of the WH&S Board,
also informed members of the impending review of the WH&S Act, and the need
for an independent reviewer to monitor the claims and appeals process of
WorkCover particularly in the area of stress claims.

She stressed the importance of the need for government to manage claims better
so that the workers who lodge the claim in the first place do not become even
more stressed as a result of the processes.

Clare Endicott, solicitor with Macrossans, has been providing legal assistance to
QTU members for the last twenty years. Clare spoke about the remedies available
to teachers in the case of stalking, where students or parents are involved. Clare
cited a number of cases where schools had been negligent in their Duty of Care,
and provided the conference with details of the Toowoomba Prep School case,
where a teacher had been charged with 20 counts of indecent dealing with a
student. A jury awarded exemplary damages of $400,000 to the student and a
further $415, 000 compensation.

Clare also outlined the case of the school bully and the legal challenges to the
exclusion powers of the Education Act.

Thanks

The Union would like to recognise the sponsorship provided by Teachers’ Union
Health (TUH), Q-Super, and Members’ Equity Home Loans.

I would also like to thank all QTU staff who assisted with conference preparation
and organisation, but in particular, Coordinator-Research/Services, Sharon
Duffy, for the hours of work she has personally dedicated to ensuring the event
ran smoothly and efficiently.



Leah Mertens
Women’s Coordinator

				
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