Women first: Thumbs up for new no-discrimination union
Strong support for Flair SA, a union run by two women that focuses on gender equality in the workplace
The founders of a new trade union aimed at fighting gender discrimination in the workplace believe there is a huge gap in the market.
“The support we received is just too great. So many people want to join, while others are offering professional assistance. Lawyers want to come on board. It’s been amazing,” lawyer and co-founder Ronel de Jager told Times Select.
“So many things are going wrong in the workplace when it comes to women and there has never been a focus on women’s issues. That is where our union will step in to fill the gap,” she said.
Flair SA launched on March 8. Its membership numbers have not yet been made public.
De Jager said she and her co-founder, Palesa Sambo, had spotted a need for this kind of union after realising how common discrimination in the workplace is, especially against women.
“Women suffer a lot of discrimination in the workplace. They are overlooked in certain positions because they are pregnant, they are married or even unmarried."
De Jager said the union would focus on professional occupations. “A lot of professionals don’t belong to any union because unions have been perceived to be for the labour market."
She said an advantage of belonging to a union is that its representatives have more rights in a company than private lawyers do.
“Companies are legally able to hold disciplinary hearings in-house, without the employee having legal counsel with them – but they can have a union representative present during a hearing, and that’s why we have formed a union.”
Sambo said her experience in business led her to De Jager. They determined that a union that seeks gender equality for all – men and women of all persuasions – is necessary.
“Our aim is not only to defend the once-defenceless in legal matters, but to educate all our members in conducting business in a professional manner, without being intimidated by claims about them or threats towards them," said Sambo.
“Flair wants to put an end to illegal intimidation in the workplace, and membership will ensure you always have someone in your corner with solid legal and business advice."
De Jager said her experience as a lawyer made her realise there was a need for a union that specialised in discrimination in the workplace. “As an advocate in private practice, I often represent employees who have experienced some of these issues. Unfortunately, though, these issues are brought to me after the fact," she said.
A union such as Flair SA could prevent a labour matter from escalating, said De Jager.
“Employers must entertain the requests of representative unions insofar as we make inquiries relating to our members. They must provide representative unions with information. This gives our members power as they become part of a collective voice as opposed to being isolated and vulnerable.”