Friday 25 November is White Ribbon Day – the day designated by the United Nations as the Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
For some years now, Australian unions have marked White Ribbon Day because they recognise that violence against women is something that affects many of their members.
By speaking out against domestic violence, in particular, unions can help change the attitudes that produce it.
But unions are taking practical steps to help workers who experience domestic violence, most of whom are women. On Monday 14 November, unions held a national day of action to mark the beginning of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing of their case for a new domestic violence leave award entitlement for Australian workers.
Unions want an entitlement of 10 days family and domestic violence leave inserted into all modern awards in recognition of the fact that domestic violence and its consequences are workplace issues.
Speaking outside the FWC before the hearing commenced, ACTU President Ged Kearney said that unions and the wider community has a responsibility of address what she said was an “insidious” problem.
“Family and domestic violence affects one in six women and two thirds of these women are in paid employment,” she said.
“We know that employment is one of the most significant factors in determining whether a person stays, leaves or returns to a violent relationship.”
The ACTU’s claim includes 10 days paid leave per year and an additional two days unpaid leave per occasion. The new entitlement will make it easier for survivors of family and domestic violence to remain in paid employment and manage stressful and time consuming tasks like finding a new home and attending court.
The CWU successfully argued for the inclusion of paid domestic violence leave in the most recent Telstra Enterprise Agreement, following Telstra’s adoption of such a policy in late 2014. It is also pressing for a similar entitlement in the current round of negotiations with Australia Post.