"Our members in public services — health, social and children’s services, and justice to name a few — are working with families, with victims and with perpetrators. Therefore domestic violence affects all of us, and it is all of our responsibility to participate in its eradication." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer
Geneva, Switzerland (02 Nov. 2017) — Delegates of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) at the Public Services International World Congress have been pushing for the international labour movement to take on a number of issues that will bring more fairness and equality to Canada and the rest of the world.
Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer speaks to resolution on gender-based violence, highlighting role of public service workers
On day 4 of the congress, Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer, rose to speak on a motion before delegates that addresses gender-based violence, specifically domestic or intimate partner, violence.
Addressing delegates Ballermann said, "The very place we should feel safe, the home, is where women are assaulted: physically, sexually and psychologically, by the very person with whom we should feel safe, our spouse or intimate partner. If the statistics of my country were applied, of the 476 women registered at this congress, between 130 and 240 of us have personally experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner."
But she went on to detail how domestic violence isn't restricted to the home. "It comes to the workplace. It may manifest itself in absenteeism, in performance issues, and at its worst, when a colleague loses her life, sometimes at the workplace itself. It is a horror for the woman experiencing the violence and can traumatize co-workers."
NUPGE represents many workers who provide public services that support women and children dealing with domestic abuse. "Our members in public services – health, social and children’s services, and justice to name a few — are working with families, with victims and with perpetrators. Therefore domestic violence affects all of us, and it is all of our responsibility to participate in its eradication."
Unions need to negotiate provisions in collective agreements, and lobby for legislation, to support women living with domestic abuse
One strategy to address domestic violence has been in negotiating provisions in our collective agreements to support workers experiencing domestic violence. "We are seeing some modest success in our advocacy for legislative provisions to assist, for example, by allowing those escaping domestic violence to break a rental agreement without penalty. These provisions are important, but our ultimate goal must be to make them redundant, because of our success in eliminating domestic violence," Ballermann said.
She admitted, "Sadly, I don’t expect to experience that redundancy in my lifetime."
"Women experiencing gender-based violence are not nameless, faceless strangers. They are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our co-workers or ourselves," Ballermann continued. "My union, NUPGE Canada and I, fully support that we, collectively, participate in finding ways to eliminate it, led by, but not the exclusive responsibility of, the PSI World Women's Committee. We all must participate, and I look forward to finding myself in a sea of orange tomorrow as the brothers in the room, and all of us, pledge to be part of the solution."
PSI and its affiliates have a long history of advocating for concrete action to stop all forms of domestic violence against women. Domestic violence has consequences that reach beyond the home and into the workplace, and research shows that nearly half of all domestic violence victims have missed time at work. A staggering 10 per cent of victims have lost their jobs because of that missed time. PSI noted that some jurisdictions have passed laws that provide paid and unpaid leave from work for victims of domestic violence.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE