Skip navigation
We Are Union VTHC
We Are Union Journal
News from the working class
Featured:
Clive Palmer, hero of the average Joe

Knowledge is Power In Fight Against Gendered Violence

Do you know what to do if you or someone you work with is being harassed because of their gender or sexuality? Is there a culture of misogyny in your workplace? Do you work in an industry that is prone to sexual harassment?

If you’re an elected Health and Safety Rep, you’re probably aware that gendered violence (GV) is very much an occupational health and safety risk. Union members successfully campaigned to have it recognised as a workplace hazard in 2017. But while the strategies for mitigating against a gendered violence hazard might be familiar to HSRs, many reps - especially those dealing with GV for the first time in recent months - feel they need more specialised training.  

This is why Victorian unions and Trades Hall are offering a one-day refresher training course for tackling gendered violence in the workplace. Developed by union trainers and OHS experts, it addresses gendered abuse and violence through the familiar lens of health and safety hazard identification, organising and risk minimisation. 

“I would recommend it to absolutely anyone,” says Ross Kenna, who did the course in 2019 as an AMWU delegate and HSR at McCains. “My whole thought process as a delegate and HSR was changed by the training.

“A lot of the stuff we talked about within the training, I hadn’t realised was gendered violence. We knew it was happening but didn’t think about it in that frame until I’d done the training.”

Women’s safety at work has always been a priority for the union movement, but in recent weeks and months it has been making national headlines. After much pressure from working women and unions, the Morrison Government has been dragged kicking and screaming into announcing they would adopt the recommendations of the [email protected] report. The Government are yet to say anything more concrete, including giving a timeframe for the implementation. However, as union members, we know that health and safety in the workplace starts with diligent HSRs and strong union membership. Not to mention a well-informed and trained-up workforce.

“Because McCains is 100% union, we really needed to live our values,” says Ross. “We get around each other. We wouldn’t let the boss threaten someone’s job. We wouldn’t let bosses threaten workers or make them feel uncomfortable. As unionists, we’ve got to make sure we support each other.”

Of course, it’s not just about sticking together. You’ve got to know your stuff. “Knowledge is power,” Ross always says. 

“There were a couple of strategies that we learned that we then put in place at McCains. Myself and another delegate, Michelle, both used the strategies to firstly talk to our members about what gendered violence is. I don’t think there’s a lot of knowledge, even in the general community, as to what it is. Certain things that had been considered acceptable in the past are unacceptable behaviours.”

“We also have an ageing workforce, so there were some attitudes we needed to change. Having the tools to explain clearly what the issues were was extremely helpful. The information provided helped us to explain that it is a health and safety issue and an industrial issue on site. People, especially union members, understand it when you put it like that.”

“I think it’s useful in a 100% male environment, too. With the way blokes talk to each other, it’s unacceptable to use someone’s sexuality, someone’s appearance or the way they act as a put down.”

As Tim Gooden explains in the video at the top of this article, gendered violence among men can lead to being pressured into doing unsafe work. By questioning someone’s sexuality, this can result in a need to prove one’s self. It is clear to see that a culture of gendered violence is not good for anyone, no matter your gender or sexuality.

You can enrol in the training (as well general HSR initial and refresher training) here.

Do you know what to do if you or someone you work with is being harassed because of their gender or sexuality? Is there a culture of misogyny in your workplace? Do you work in an industry that is prone to sexual harassment?

If you’re an elected Health and Safety Rep, you’re probably aware that gendered violence (GV) is very much an occupational health and safety risk. But while the strategies for mitigating against a gendered violence hazard might be familiar to HSRs, many reps - especially those dealing with GV for the first time in recent months - feel they need more specialised training.

Subscribe