In most countries, collective bargaining is a key means of negotiating terms and conditions of employment and can thus be an important means of promoting equality for men and women in employment.
While collective agreements are intended to represent the needs and interests of all workers, issues of particular interest or concern to women have often been overlooked or treated as "marginal". There is therefore a need for specific consideration of gender issues in collective bargaining, particularly with respect to unequal pay, and women's access to promotion and vocational training. Not only do gender issues need to be addressed in collective bargaining, but traditional bargaining items should be reassessed from a gender perspective.
Some issues may be of more concern to women because of their reproductive role, or their ascribed role in regard to family and household care or because of past discrimination. At the same time, these issues are not limited to women. Men also need certain types of protection in regard to their reproductive function. Measures are also necessary to give both men and women the opportunity to share more family responsibilities (e.g. parental leave, flexible working hours and greater access to part-time work).
Gender issues are not sufficiently dealt with in collective bargaining because women are under-represented in trade union decision-making structures and negotiating teams. The reasons for this may include the double burden borne by women, which does not leave them enough time to participate in trade union affairs, lack of confidence, assertiveness and training, or the fact that the union is male dominated and insensitive to their needs. There is a need to emphasize women workers' representation in bargaining structures.
→ see also Freedom of association and the right to organize, Parental leave and Trade unions
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