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IEU Speaks on …. White Ribbon Day

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women.    

 “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive.  It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth.  As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”  Kofi Annan (General Secretary, United Nations.1997- 2006)

 25 November is White Ribbon Day; an international day to raise awareness for the prevention of violence against women and girls, and a chance to campaign for legislative provisions for paid family and domestic violence leave.

Family and domestic violence is a widespread problem across Australia.  It occurs in all parts of society, regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, age, cultural and ethnic background or religious belief.  The evidence shows that one in six women and one in twenty men have experienced at least one incident of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. (Australian Bureau of Statistics. Personal Safety Survey 2012)

The Origins of White Ribbon Day

In 1991, on the second anniversary of the massacre of 14 women by a lone gunman in Montreal, Canada, a group of Canadian men initiated a White Ribbon campaign to urge men to speak out against violence against women.  The wearing of a white ribbon, particularly in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the women’s deaths, represented group’s  public pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

That first effort achieved the distribution of 100,000 white ribbons to men across Canada and promoted widespread community discussion about violence in personal relationships.

As a consequence of this action, in December 1999, the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared  November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Domestic Violence is a Workplace Issue

Many people who are subjected to family and domestic violence are in paid employment.  Family and domestic violence impacts on workplaces through increased absenteeism due to injury, sickness, stress, court attendances and other factors.  It limits an employee’s ability to perform effectively, which might result in performance management, terminations and resignations.

Yet, the workplace is often the only place where employees can feel safe, gain support or find out about community services that can help.  Through a stable and secure job, employees who are experiencing domestic violence can support themselves and their families financially and plan an exit strategy from the violence at home.

Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave. A mechanism to maintain safe and secure employment

Paid family and domestic violence leave and protections at work help victims of violence to maintain safe and secure employment.

Paid leave will allow an employee subjected to family and domestic violence, to take an absence from work to attend appointments with medical, legal or financial professionals or to make arrangements to relocate or ensure their children’s protection, without suffering financial disadvantage.

This not only supports people subjected to current violence actions, but also facilitates safe escape from dangerous situations, thus helping to reduce or eliminate further violence.

Change is happening .  But it is not fast enough.

It is a fact that some IEU members have achieved specified industrial provisions within their collective agreement which details the care and practical support, including paid leave, available to members experiencing family and domestic violence.  In some cases, these collective agreements even include support to those employees who support a person who is experiencing domestic violence.

These collective agreement provisions have been successfully achieved through strong membership activism when negotiating working conditions. 

However, the sad reality is that there are a substantial number of staff in non-government schools and in other workplaces across Australia, without access to paid family and domestic violence leave.  More needs to be done.

It is time to change the rules of work

Like every social change – superannuation, paid parental leave, penalty rates, workers compensation, sick leave, anti-discrimination legislation, anti–slavery legislation – it takes courage and commitment from union members to demand leadership from the Government to change the rules.

We need strong, legislative provisions for paid family and domestic violence leave, so that all workers who are experiencing violence in their home life can be protected.

Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave must be included in the National Employment Standards

The National Employment Standards (NES)  are the minimum employment entitlements that must be provided to all employees in national workplaces, regardless of any Award or Collective Agreement or employment contract.

No workplace can exclude an NES condition.

That is why it is imperative that we tell our political leaders that 10 days paid domestic violence leave is vital and must form part of the National Employment Standards.

IEU Member action

In recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, IEU members are asked to:

  • • Wear a white ribbon to raise awareness of the significance of the international day
  • • Hold discussions with their colleagues on the importance of paid family and domestic violence leave as a national employment safety net 
  • • Sign and circulate the petition below calling for the inclusion of 10 days paid domestic violence leave into the National Employment Standards.

By undertaking these actions, IEU members can make a public demonstration that we do not tolerate family and domestic violence and we are committed to campaigning for paid leave and support to those who experience such violence.