Community member, Tracy Barlow, is chairing the TUC Women’s Conference. The conference is taking place through International Women’s Day at Congress House in London.
Tracy is a lifelong union member and longstanding Community activist, joining the National Executive Council of one of Community’s founding unions, the Knitwear Footwear and Apparel Trades Union, in 1997. Tracy was the first female president of Community in 2007. She continues to serve on Community’s National Executive Council.
As chair of the TUC Women’s Conference, she gave the opening address on the eve of International Women’s Day, issuing a rallying cry to the delegates.
“Let’s leave here on Friday with a vision of what we want for women. Let’s grab hold and challenge the inequality we face in work and society, let’s seek out the injustice that leaves us as women far behind in terms of the gender pay gap.”
Tracy highlighted the range of continuing discrimination women face at work: around maternity and pregnancy, pay and career progression, saying it’s “simply unacceptable” more than 40 years since the Equal Pay Act that the inequality continues.
She also paid tribute to the women who led struggles to win the right to vote.
“So in this the 100th year for some women attaining the right to vote, let us not forget all the women before us who have made many sacrifices: hard fought and not without consequence. I thank all those women who through their determination and sacrifice gave us so much so that we can vote, so we have a voice.
“Now more than ever women need to come together to celebrate our successes in solidarity, and stand together facing the challenges still to tackle.”
Tracy shared her journey as an activist in the union movement, saying:
“As 1 of 7 children I was always the one with the attitude…As I grew older I had my opinion and wasn’t afraid to put it forward. Perhaps I was always destined for a life as an activist in the trade union movement!”
Tracy started work at 16 at Courtaulds. She continued working there until the factory closed with a devastating loss of jobs in 2016. As the lead Community rep, Tracy supported her colleagues through the closure and worked closely with Community’s legal team to secure a £1 million settlement for the workers who lost their jobs.