Labour will give 10 days paid leave for domestic abuse survivors Dawn Butler MP
Dawn Butler MP

Today was the first women’s conference where we, the women of the party, could submit a motion to the main Labour Party Conference, and there was excitement in the air because of this.

The conference started with speeches by Jennie Formby (General Secretary), Debbie Wilcox (Leader of Welsh Local Government Association), Dawn Butler (Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities)  and Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party Leader). It also included a video in celebration of the last 100 years of Labour Women. There was a real strength of feeling and emotion throughout the conference hall when the film was being shown and with each speaker that stood up. Dawn Butler announced that under a Labour government, domestic abuse survivors would get 10 days paid leave.  This is an amazing policy and would save lives of women and men across the country. It was also announced that in February 2019, there would be the first ever stand alone Labour Women’s Conference, to be held in Telford.

There were four motions that were put before the delegates today, and they were as follows:

  1. Women and the Economy –  A motion which acknowledged the continuing gap that women face in and out of the workplace, with employment rights, welfare, and housing.  It acknowledged the particular struggles of Black and Other Minority Ethinic Women and Disabled Women throughout the country. It called on Labour to campaign to repeal or reform Universal Credit, abolish the two child limit, reverse cuts to in work allowances, amongst a host of other measures to support Women and their place in the Economy. A whole host of women of all ages, races and abilities spoke about their experiences with the current economy, job places and welfare system. This motion was carried forward to the ballot unanimously.
  2. Childcare – A motion which acknowledged both the increasing cost of childcare for women returning to the workplace, and often the scandal of employers discriminating against women on maternity leave. It called on a future Labour government to keep publicly owned early years nurseries going and increase the provision, to work with trade unions to protect women from maternity discrimination and call on all councils to introduce childcare and parental leave for councillors. Women spoke about the fact they have had to choose between their career and spending their maternity leave with their babies, about the cost of childcare, the providers that are going under because of the lack of funding for the 30 hours scheme and the lack of before and after school clubs, which is disproportionately affecting women. This motion was carried forward to the ballot unanimously.
  3. Abortion Rights – A motion which acknowledged that in the UK abortion remains illegal under the 1861 Offences against the person act, because the 1967 Abortion Act does not remove the criminality from this (a fact that I never knew until today) . It moved to remove the criminality of abortion so that in the UK, women could have safe access to the procedure via the local practice nurse, and could do it safely at home without fear of repercussion, and even more importantly that women in Northern Ireland can have free, safe abortion in their own country, without having to face the prospect of travelling by boat or plane to Great Britain. We heard about a woman in Northern Ireland who is awaiting trial for supplying her teenage daughter abortion pills that were wanted, so she did not have to face travelling or the anguish of not having autonomy over her body. There were a couple of abstentions, but the motion carried easily.
  4. Women’s Health and Safety –  There were two slightly different motions on offer. One covering period poverty, in which they called on a Labour government to abolish the 5% VAT on sanitary products and work with trade unions to make employers look after people who are going through the menopause. The other covered domestic abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace, and asking Labour to commit to supporting both these issues. We heard about how 50% of young people were embarrassed to talk about their periods and how 1 in 3 people who have had menopausal symptoms had experienced discrimination from an employer due to this. We also heard about the epidemic of domestic abuse where 2 women a week are being killed by a current or former romantic partner and about the violence against sex workers in the UK. These motions were both carried forward to the ballot unanimously.

We each got a ballot vote on which motion to go forward to the Labour Party Conference this week, and it was announced Sunday morning that motion 1 (Women and the Economy) was the motion to win this ballot.

In the evening I went to the Women’s Reception where I met with Dawn Butler, and mentioned our CLP to her. She is an amazing woman and is doing an amazing job, and I for one can’t wait until the day she is the head of her own Equalities team.

 

Vicky Martin

CLP Secretary and Conference Delegate

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