My friend works at a retail franchise with a lot of other young women and non-binary people. She tells me that her workplace refuses to supply a bin for the bathrooms! It means that people who have their period have to wrap up their used sanitary products and take them home in their bag.
This doesn't seem right. Do you have any advice?
- Aunty Flo
Dear Aunty Flo - thanks for reaching out on behalf of your friend!
This is a health and safety issue, but also it indicates complete disregard for workers' comfort and dignity!
The best way to deal with this is collectively. The workers need to talk to each other and establish exactly what they want from management. Eg., would a regular bin with a lid be sufficient? Are the bathrooms otherwise satisfactorily clean? Do workers have space for changing into uniforms? Are the bathrooms accessible to everyone, and do workers get bathroom breaks as required?
The workers should really all join their union for support. Standing together in union offers a lot of protection and allows you to negotiate with management on a more equal footing. You can also access paid time off work to get training in health and safety representation, for example. And if management are refusing something as simple as a bin, I suspect there are a lot of other improvements that could be made to make the workplace more comfortable, safe, and respectful.
In the first instance, the Young Workers Centre can help the workers to put their position to management. Young Workers Centre organisers will help the workers learn their own strength, and how to demand safe and respectful workplaces in union!
But these young people at the start of their working lives might as well learn now that every workplace can be improved when workers join together in union so that they can contribute meaningfully to the way a workplace operates. Becoming a union member and learning how to stand up for your dignity at work is a skill for life!