STUC Youth Conference demands free sanitary products for all female workers

The STUC Youth conference kicked off in Clydebank with a discussion of ‘Period Dignity’

  • STUC Youth Committee to educate young workers on menstruation and campaign to remove the tampon tax
  • 48 per cent of girls aged between 14 and 21 feel embarrassed by their period, while 71 per cent felt embarrassed about buying products
  • One in ten school girls across the UK have been unable to afford free sanitary product 
  • Colleges and universities have received an extra £5.5 million funding from the Scottish Government to ensure that the scheme to provide free sanitary products continues for pupils and students 

YOUNG SCOTTISH trade unionists are calling for free access to sanitary product to be made available to all female workers.

Delegates who attended this year’s STUC youth conference in Clydebank on Saturday [29 June] heard that menstruation is often perceived as shameful, with many women felt too embarrassed to buy sanitary products.  

This problem has been exacerbated with poverty wages, cuts in benefits and the public sector pay cap resulting in more impoverished families having to decide between eating and buying sanitary products. 

The conference has also called on the STUC Youth Committee to issue material to educate young workers on menstruation, and a campaign for the removal of the tampon tax.

Lauren Black, who moved the motion on behalf of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, said: “In this day of age, it is absolutely not acceptable that there are people who are not in a position to afford sanitary products.

READ MORE: Funding boost for Scotland's world-leading sanitary products scheme

“Not only this, but they are classed as a luxury item. These are essential products, not luxury items.”    

According to a recent survey, almost half of girls aged between 14 and 21 feel embarrassed by their period, while 71 per cent has felt embarrassed buying sanitary products.

Also, one in ten school girls across the UK have been unable to afford sanitary products, with many of them having to take days off school while they are having their period. 12 per cent of schoolgirls have had to improvise by using socks and newspapers.

Hollie Yates from ASLEF told the conference that women spend over £18,000 over their lifetime on sanitary products.

Yates said: “We need to rig the campaign for cheaper products, and we need to realise that companies are making so much money and profit from our necessaries.”

READ MORE: 'World leading' legislation to end period poverty lodged at Holyrood

The conference noted the “fantastic period dignity campaign” work being carried out by many trade unions and other groups.

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who has campaigned on period dignity since she was elected in 2016, has brought forward a member’s bill to make it a legal requirement to provide a universal system of free sanitary products across Scotland.

Lennon said: “Access to period products is an important employment issue and I am pleased young trade unionists are leading the campaign for period positive workplaces.

“The vision behind my member’s bill is to end period poverty, and making period products as accessible as toilet paper is an action all employers can take.

READ MORE: Celtic's on the ball: Club becomes first in UK to provide free sanitary products

“Vending machine prices are unaffordable to many workers, especially for young people and shift-workers often find themselves caught short of essential period products. No one should have to worry about bleeding through their clothes at work. The STUC Youth Conference has the full backing of Scottish Labour in our shared fight for period dignity.”

The conference mandated STUC Youth Committee to campaign to end period poverty by working with politicians and campaign groups.

Delegates also applauded the Scottish Government for making Scotland the first country in the world to make sanitary products free to all students and pupils.

Earlier this month, colleges and universities across Scotland have received a funding increase of £5.5 million to ensure that the scheme to provide free sanitary products to pupils and students continues after it was brought in last year.

In January, councils have received £4 million funding from the Scottish Government to provide free sanitary products in libraries and leisure centres. 

READ MORE: Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central yet to introduce free sanitary products four months after agreeing to

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In 2018 we became the first Government in the world to make free sanitary products available to all pupils and students. Since then, we have delivered world-leading action by providing free sanitary products not only in schools, colleges and universities but in an increasing number of places in communities, including targeted support for those on low incomes.

“We also want to continue to reduce the stigma and address the overarching gender equality and dignity issues that affect everyone who menstruates, regardless of their income. That is why we have sought to ensure that a new Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting Programme for schools includes increased material on periods and period products”

Delegates argued education about menstruation is “essential” for both female and male workers, as “it’s vital that we’re all taught about periods, to dispel myths and end the shame surrounding menstruation”.

The conference mandated the STUC Youth Committee to issue materials to educate workers about menstruation issues that are focused on young workers.

Picture courtesy of 小草

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