General Meeting

Speaker: Alison Tate
Alison Tate
Alison Tate
CHÂTEAU SAINTE-ANNE Rue Du Vieux Moulin 103 1160 Bruxelles

As businesses address the risks of a global health pandemic on how they do business, including where they source from, many global chains and small businesses alike are moving to adapt their ways of doing business. Unions see attention being paid like never before on the most egregious violations of worker’s rights – in the form of modern slavery – though global supply chains becoming visible to consumers and investors and to be more “purposeful” and take action on the exploitation of workers down the supply chains. The most vulnerable are women workers in poor countries. How can we use the COVID19 recovery to ensure we end exploitation and build businesses and a global economy that is both fair and resilient?"

Alison Tate is the Director of Economic and Social Policy, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the peak union body – based in Brussels. The ITUC represent 207 million workers in 165 countries.

Alison’s role includes representing unions in bodies including the UN, the G20 and international financial institutions. She serves on numerous boards including ILO Better Work, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the Ethical Trading Initiative. She is a Commissioner on the Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

An economist with experience in national and global economics, international trade and investment, social policy, human and trade unions rights, sustainable development, climate change, migration, labour standards compliance, responsible investment and corporate accountability.

Alison leads the ITUC’s work on “Global Shifts and Just Transitions” which includes the industrial, social, political and economic transformation that is needed in order that people and the planet thrive and that globally we turn around the current trajectory on climate change in the next 10 years.

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A Review
A review by Larisa Doctorov
Equal Pay

We will remember 2020 as a strange year. Everything is upside down: business, work, our private
life, travels, relationships with family members and friends.
Covid-19 infection has caught the world unprepared and the immediate impact on the economy
is shocking. Still more shocking because it came after three decades which were the most
prosperous in the life of all mankind in all times.

That economic impact on women was more dramatic than for men, because they society. Certainly, the richer the society is,
the better social protection of the population it offers. No wonder that the most dramatic stories and news come from the developing
countries, where people and families were left by themselves to deal with the shock. In poor countries, female workers are mostly in
part-time jobs. They are the first to be fired and the last to be brought back.


At the same time, women are both economic actors and activists, meaning that they are manufacturers and consumers. Then why do they get unfair treatment? They are underpaid. They work in dangerous conditions. In many countries they are deprived of education and the right to choose their life’s path. Now with the pandemic and the world crisis it all has become still more obvious.
This is a very important moment in the history of the world. Society has to understand the unfair treatment of women and to find the instruments to change the old ways of doing business. The future of mankind depends upon building an economy that is both fair and resilient. This was the topic of the lecture given to ISG on 12 October by the economist Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy in the International Trade Union Confederation representing 207 million workers in 165 countries.
Among Ms Tate’s many obligations is to serve on the Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. She is actively working on political and economic transformations needed in order for people and the planet to thrive. Globally the objective is to turn around the current trajectory on climate change in the next ten years.
Since women are both economic actors and activists, we can’t underestimate the role women play in the life of the society. The world
population has two major concerns today: health and the economy. Women’s life and well-being is essential for society and society has to take it into consideration.
And if something is not right, the means have to be found to change it, to improve it, to remove the obstacles. Only then will society develop.


The lecture took an unusual format for a General Meeting. It was more like a cross-talk, an exchange of ideas between the lecturer and the audience, openly encouraged by Alison Tate. She started asking questions related to the subject and the audience actively responded. It was surprising how many of our members have thought about the subject and had their own ideas.
Women work in many areas: in hospitals, educational institutions, manufacturing, the service industry, at home. Their obligations are many. At the same time women are underpaid. Their wages are not on the level of men’s wages for the same job. The most obvious moment to demonstrate the inequality comes when someone gets a promotion .If there are two candidates, usually it goes to a man.
The lecturer had warned us that this will be a sad talk. It became obvious when Alison Tate started talking about salaries, about the prospect of getting equal salaries for women and men in the year 2121. Not before that.
Another sad fact is the bad working conditions to which women workers are subjected, especially in poor countries. At meat-packaging factories around the world the majority of workers are women. There were regular reports about the shocking situation with Covid-19 at these factories coming from different countries including the US. The packers work in tight quarters. They get contaminated but don’t go to a hospital either because they have no medical insurance or out of fear of losing their jobs. Many are migrant workers.
That leads us to the situation of women in poor countries. Equal rights in those countries are a problem that starts with birth. Girls are less important than boys. Boys have a chance to get some kind of education, but for the girls often there is no money. They have fewer opportunities to control their lives. If they remain in the family, they often are doomed to do a lot of unpaid work, taking care of family members, taking care of the house. The lecturer gave us some heart breaking examples taken from life of women in Bangladesh.
Women in poor countries have fewer opportunities to get educated, to choose what they want to do in life.
At present, because of the pandemic, 400 million women have lost their jobs, especially in poor countries. Fifty percent of the counties in the world have no social protection for workers. They always relied upon wealthy Western donor countries, but now many countries see their budgets squeezed and are reluctant to give money to the aid organizations. We have heard the figure:
$1.50 a day is the poverty line in the world. And now 450 million will have less. Companies try to look where to put their business, keeping in mind places where there is less awareness of health risks. This should not be.
This moment in the history of the world also provides new opportunities. One to expose the problems and two to address them. There are two ways of doing it. Firstly, we can do something on a personal level. For example, be more active. When shopping, don’t hesitate to ask questions like what the conditions are at the factory where this nice sweater is manufactured.
Secondly, we can change our own behaviour and be a conscientious consumer. We have changed our attitude to garbage collecting and do recycling at home instead of putting all together. This is important as a key for positive changes in the life of our planet. Be more active, more energetic. Other things might follow.

There are positive changes as well. For example, now more jobs are created in green sectors of economy than in the gas and oil industries.

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