Union members slam inadequacy of council approach which seeks to place onus on staff for donations to addressing period poverty
Management approach should focus on providing women with dignity and normalising a natural biological process
Unite Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer, Taryn Trainor, challenged the insulting and patronising approach adopted by council management at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in response to her union’s period dignity campaign:
“Over the last year, Unite has been leading a period dignity campaign that seeks to address both the growing problem of period poverty and the fact that women are forced to feel shame or embarrassment about their periods. Key objectives of this campaign are to ensure that tampons and other sanitary products are provided free by employers and public authorities, that they are zero rated for VAT, and that having a period is viewed as a natural facet of female biology.
“While some employers such as Rolls Royce and even other councils in Northern Ireland have adopted an enlightened approach to this issue, sadly Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has adopted a very retrogressive attitude. Instead of providing sanitary materials free – on the same basis as toilet rolls are provided – the local authority has placed the onus on their already poorly-paid staff to donate sanitary products in order to address the growing problem of period poverty.
“What is perhaps even more shocking is the language used by management in launching their ‘pink present’ campaign. The email sent to staff claimed the issue of period poverty was a ‘silent’ issue that needed to be dealt with in a ‘discreet’ way by staff.
“It is entirely unacceptable that women and girls are made to feel that their ‘time of the month’ is inconvenient or shameful; indeed, women and men have shied away from talking about periods openly for far too long. Unite believes that, by changing perceptions, we can tackle some of the wider issues around periods. We want access to sanitary products in the workplace and schools to be as normal as having access to things such as toilet roll. Management of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council need to change course and treat their female workforce with dignity”, Ms Trainor said.