International Women's Day

8 March - International Women's Day


History of IWD

IWD originated in the USA in 1908, when women garment workers held demonstrations protesting against their appalling and dangerous working conditions.

Then, in August 1910 at the 2nd International Women's Conference at Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin proposed that a Socialist Women's Day be held annually, organized chiefly around women's suffrage, and with an international character.

On IWD in 1917, Russian women textile workers went on strike. They acted against State, Church and the Bolsheviks but gained wide public support and initiated the Revolution - the Tsar abdicated 4 days later.

The first IWD public meeting in Australia was organised by the Sydney Militant Workers' Group in the Sydney Domain in 1928. It called for equal pay for equal work; an eight-hour day for shop assistants; no piecework; annual holidays on full pay; and the basic wage for the unemployed.

The first IWD marches were held in Sydney and Melbourne in 1931. The Melbourne rally in 1934 was marked for its concern about Aboriginal rights, and Aboriginal activist, Anna Morgan, speaking at the rally, denounced the "black flag of the Aboriginal Protection Board" and called for legal changes and access to social welfare.  

The financial crisis affects women workers throughout the region

More than 17,000 workers are affected by layoffs in several large economic zones in the Philippines since November 2008. The situation is expected to worsen as many factories close down, impacted by the global finance crisis.
Nikon (Thailand) is laying off at least 2,600 workers without any notice. The workers claimed they were given a payout of only two months’ salary, even though labour law demands employers give three months’ pay to contract workers.

An underwear producer for Pierre Cardin in Indonesia, dismissed the trade union leader. Workers went on strike immediately. Then another 446 workers, mostly women, who participated in the strike were sacked. On 25 November 2008, the factory brutally dispersed the strikers causing 30 injuries among workers.

In 2008 ABC crashed in Australia making it harder for women to get child care. In February 2009 Pacific Brands (manufacturer of King Gee, Yakka, Bonds, Jockey, Dunlop Volley and Holeproof) announced it would sack 1,850 workers in Australia.

In 2009, despite Australian laws that enshrine equal pay, women’s pay is 65% of the total earnings for men. Currently Australia is one of only two developed countries that do not offer paid maternity leave. The other one is the USA.

We have to fight back, together

All around the world as the economy crashes, women workers lose their jobs, wages & conditions, pensions & houses. Women throughout the region are suffering the same. It is not in our interest to compete with women workers from around the world.

We have to learn from the women at the turn of the 20th Century who initiated International Women’s Day. Women workers must come together to initiate change - sometimes in spite of demands from family, religion, race, nationality, ideology or tradition.

Our strength is international industrial action & solidarity. Our strength is the unity of workers all over the world.