EPSU Women’s Conference 2023: women are here to stay!

EPSU Women's conference Rome 24 November 2023

(18 December 2023) On 24 November, the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, EPSU’s Women's Conference took place. The conference brought together women’s voices, with delegates and speakers from across Europe.

After opening speeches by Johanna Lehmann (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), Jan Willem Goudriaan (EPSU) and Maria Eugenia Rodriguez Palop (MEP GUE/NGL), the conference delved into critical facets of gender equality, focusing on the overarching themes explored in three panels: equality in EPSU and its affiliates; equal pay for work of equal value; and violence against women.

Leading by example: equality in EPSU and EPSU affiliates

The first panel, chaired by Lara Verbigrazia (FP-CGIL, Italy) looked at the crucial issue of equality within EPSU and its affiliates. Margherita Roiatti (ADAPT) presented key findings from a survey on equality in the organisation.

The panel highlighted notable contributions from EPSU affiliates. Alexa Wolfstädter (Ver.di, Germany) discussed the Empowering Young Women project which emphasises support for the younger demographic. Mafalda Ferletti (FP-CGIL, Italy) shared insights on gender equality training to address inequalities in the workplace. Nargis Nazarzoda (TUWSPBI, Tajikistan) presented successful campaigns against gender-based violence.

Discussion from participants addressed economic dependence and its link to violence; how earning less than a male partner increases the likelihood of violence; and power dynamics. Speakers advocated for multiple approaches, including collective bargaining and empowerment initiatives.

The panel concluded with a commitment to promote gender equality through joint efforts and sharing of best practice within EPSU and its affiliates.

Equal pay for work of equal value: stop the undervaluation of women’s work!

Alexa Wolfstädter (Ver.di, Germany) moderated the second panel, which addressed the critical issue of equal pay and the undervaluation of women's work. Dr. Kalina Arabadjieva (ETUI) presented the Pay Transparency Directive and its opportunities. Freyja Steingrímsdóttir (BSRB, Iceland) discussed the Icelandic Women’s Strike and how the trade union federation made it a success, while also highlighting the operational challenges of organising such a large scale demonstration. Nathalie Pain (CFDT, France) presented studies showing the structural pay gap between men and women dominated sectors.

The discussion explored perceptions of leadership qualities; the complexities of salary caps and bonuses; and the need to demystify stereotypes about supposedly natural women's skills. The panel highlighted the multifaceted nature of achieving equal pay for work of equal value and the structural conditions that contribute to inequalities in pay and working conditions.

Violence against women: state of play, next moves and which role for trade unions?

The panel debate on the current state of violence against women and the role trade unions can play was moderated by Paola Panzeri (EPSU). She and Serena Sorentino (FP-CGIL, Italy) discussed the recent events that have shaken Italian society, stressing the need to reframe the debate from the “monster narrative” to the fight against the patriarchal nature of society. The call for concrete action against gender-based violence is not only a call for repression, but above all a call for education.

The discussion touched on European and national initiatives, and on the role of collective bargaining in the fight against gender-based violence. Gloria Mills (UNISON, UK) stressed the cultural nature of the issues, while Isabelle Schömann (ETUC) emphasised the need to use existing agreements at the European level. Participants discussed possibility of describing austerity as a form of gender-based violence, women being the first victims of such measures.

Laura de Bonfils (Social Platform) concluded the panel bystressing the importance of cooperation with civil society, intersectionality in policy-making, and the key role of unions in combating and preventing violence against women.

The Conference concluded with the adoption of EPSU’s landmark Rome Declaration, a declaration outlining the conference’s resolute commitment to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality. The Declaration will guide the work of EPSU’s Women and Gender Equality Network in the coming years, underlining the goals to mainstream the priorities of the Declaration across all EPSU sectors.

After the conference, the speakers and delegates participated in a flash-mob protesting violence against women, organised in cooperation with FP-CGIL. Participants were loud (very loud!) and clear as they shared their message from Piazza Trilussa in the centre of Rome: women will not be silenced! A large EPSU delegation also participated in the demonstration in Rome marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Saturday, 25 November – joining tens of thousands of protesters against Italy calling out for urgent change.


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