Jackie Marshall, NEC, reports on the TUC Women’s Conference 2023

The Women’s Conference returned to TUC headquarters in London this year, following virtual conferences because of the pandemic.

This year’s slogan was ‘Women Demand Better’ and the motions that were debated shouted that message loud and clear.

The POA delegation consisted of Sarah Rigby NEC, Angela Montgomery AGS, and myself.

On the first day, conference was addressed by Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who updated attendees on the Labour Party’s current priorities. Unions were then given the opportunity to ask her questions.

On behalf of the POA, Angela Montgomery AGS asked: “In light of the cost-of-living crisis, will the Labour Party remove VAT on all domestic fuel permanently, as fuel is not a luxury and women are struggling to put food on the table and heat the home. This would reinforce the message that fuel is an essential item and should not be subject to additional taxation.”

Reeves’ response was that if the Labour Party won the next general election they would go far further, by lowering prices and imposing windfall taxes on large companies.

New TUC analysis finds that more than 1.46 million women are kept out of the labour market because of their caring responsibilities. Those in their 30s are the hardest hit, with women in that age group dropping out of the jobs market because of the pressures of looking after their family.

The TUC calls for funded childcare and flexible working rights for all, to keep women in work and to address the gender pay gap.

The POA submitted two motions to the conference.


Absence-management policies should include a section that mandates employers be more caring towards women’s issues.

We ask that conference calls on the TUC to campaign for employers to be more understanding of women-specific issues by having a flexible attendance-management policy that gives more consideration to women’s health, such as periods, menopause and maternity.

In addition, the policy should include specific information mandating time off for IVF treatment for women and their partners going through the process.

This motion was moved by Sarah Rigby and was carried unanimously. I moved the second motion which read:


Conference acknowledges the vast number of women who need HRT medication as their bodies change, and the extra cost this puts on them.

Therefore, conference asks the TUC to campaign to get HRT prescribed free of charge to all women who need it.

This motion was also carried unanimously.

I was asked by the General Secretary, Steve Gillan, to be a panel member at a TUCG fringe meeting on tackling misogyny, and the role of trade unions. I explained to those at the fringe that, as a union, we welcome more women onto our local and national committees. I also explained that, in the past, female prison officers were very rarely assaulted in the male prison estate by prisoners; yet, in today’s prisons, we are ‘fair game’, particularly when it comes to potting. It is seen as a tactic to humiliate women and obtain power over them.

If you are interested in becoming a local rep or getting involved in the POA women’s movement, please contact HQ for guidance.

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.