The 96th Annual STUC Women’s Conference took place in Glasgow on the 30th and 31st October. The theme was ‘Your Story, Our Story, Herstory,’ after the Herstory Project developed by the STUC Women’s Committee to highlight the stories of Scottish Trade Union women.

The Herstory theme captured the imaginations of delegates and guests alike with powerful contributions throughout the event, highlighting our shared herstory and commitment to the trade union movement in Scotland.

The EIS was well represented at this year’s conference not only by our impressive delegation of 20 strong trade union women, but also by this year’s chair, our very own EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley.

Andrea was elected chair of the STUC Women’s Committee last year and has spent the year working alongside the Committee on many projects and campaigns, including the aims set by delegates at last year’s conference.

In her address to conference, Andrea first welcomed every delegate and visitor making sure to put the spotlight on the women of the trade union movement in Scotland.

“Every woman trade unionist who’s actively pursuing change for the good – big or small – is making a valuable contribution to our trade union movement” she said.

Andrea further highlighted some of the priorities that the STUC Women’s Committee has been working on over the last year, including planning for a campaign to tackle the gender pay gap, continuing to challenge sexual harassment in the workplace and in the trade union movement, and keeping up the pressure on government and local authorities to expand universal free school meals provision from nursery to P1 to S6.

She emphasised the work of Engender and Hazards Scotland calling for sexual harassment to be seen as a health and safety issue and the Committee’s Food For Thought campaign, not only in Andrea’s opening speech but further by the first motion of conference moved by the EIS, which called on the Committee to continue their work fighting poverty in Scotland.

Moving motion 4 ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ was EIS President Paula McEwan. In her speech Paula highlighted the importance of universal free school meals and called on conference to continue campaigning for the roll out of free school meals to all children in Scotland. She then brought attention to the intersectional impact this crisis is having on women and pledged that unions must investigate this in how we campaign to address this issue. The motion was carried with overwhelming support.

Carron McLellan later moved the EIS’s second motion, Prioritising Women’s Health in the Workplace. Carron used her speech to stress the burden on women to suffer in silence at work when it comes to women’s health.

She presented sobering statistics on health issues arising from menopause, menstruation, and conditions such as endometriosis, highlighting the struggles of women accessing health care while being supported at work. The motion was debated with many delegates sharing their own experiences with this struggle. The motion was successfully carried.

Our delegates also represented the EIS seconding or speaking to many more motions. These include the right to disconnect and burnout, motions on the gender pay gap and equal pay in local authorities as well as motions inspiring more women to take part in the trade union movement.

Voices from conference

Paula McEwan, EIS President

“It was an honour to lead this delegation of powerful EIS women – many of them first-time delegates and more of them first-time speakers.

There were very few motions to conference that EIS didn’t contribute to and we were able to highlight EIS policy in many of them – our support of the STUC Women’s Committee Food For Thought campaign calling for universal free school meals. the employment precarity faced by early career teachers, the cross-cutting impact of women’s issues on our members and their employment and much more.

One of the highlights of the conference for me, as well as having our General Secretary as the chair, was the launch of the STUC Women’s Committee Herstory project. I was one of the first ‘herstorians’ and to see my writing celebrated as part of the launch was incredibly moving. Conference delegates were given a taster-session of the Herstory project workshops and I would urge everyone to take part when they get the opportunity!”

Alison Beattie, Glasgow Local Association

“I was delighted to be chosen to be an EIS delegate at the STUC women’s conference this year. I attended the STUC Women’s Weekend School in August and was absolutely blown away by the experiences and passion of trade union women from Scotland. That was very clear to see in the wonderful Superwomen poem written about the participants there.

That is why I was very passionate about speaking in support of motion 1 – Continuing to Make Herstory. I was moved to speak about the inspirational women of our trade union movement and continuing to record the stories of the past and present. It was important for me to have a voice in the wider trade union women’s movement and hear other women from so many different backgrounds and profession’s speak so passionately about their lives and work.

Being around trade union women was inspirational and made me feel like the trade union movement makes a difference and continues to help enact positive change.”

Jacqui MacKenzie, North Ayrshire Local Association

“I was delighted to be included in this year’s EIS delegation at the STUC Women’s Conference. A very special year since, Andrea Bradley, our General Secretary hosted and chaired the conference.

It was a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with strong women from across the Trade Union movement as we moved and debated motions covering a wide range of topics.

I spoke in support of two motions this year. The first on work life balance and the right to disconnect. Working remotely during the pandemic blurred the boundaries between work and home. Teachers are often contacted out with contracted working hours via email or apps. We need to reclaim our time, energy and freedom and find a better balance between our work and our home life.

I also spoke in support of the motion to campaign for greater understanding in the workplace of the needs of those living with Urinary Incontinence. We need to create a culture of empathy and inclusion in our workplaces and therefore must advocate for better workplace policies and practices that promote continence care.”

Andrea Bradley, EIS General Secretary

“Almost ten years on, it continues to be an honour to represent the EIS on the STUC Women’s Committee. Chairing this year’s Women’s Conference in my home city of Glasgow was a standout highlight at the end of a busy year of activity for the Committee when we continued our campaigning work on sexual harassment, the gender pay gap, women’s health and universal free school meals provision, and launched the innovative, new Herstory project designed to capture the stories from the trade union lives of women in the movement in Scotland.

‘Your Story, Our Story, Herstory’ was the underpinning theme of the Conference, and the delegates who attended are clearly making strong contributions to our collective herstory across all sectors of the economy.

It was inspiring to listen to them speak, to watch them in action during the Herstory workshop and to feel the power that they hold as Union activists in their workplaces and that they brought with them in abundance to the Conference.

The EIS delegation led by our President, participated brilliantly, doing themselves, our Union and me as General Secretary, very proud as they articulated the EIS position in debates, shared their many stories and supported one another and sisters from other unions, so kindly. Together we made another little piece of EIS herstory to be proud of.”