The experience and desire necessary to produce the manual were gained through contact with those working women in Edmonton who phoned the EWW Hotline. The Hotline offers free advice and support to women who are being treated unfairly at work. Women from many occupations - waitresses, secretaries, teachers, nurses, to name a few have called because their rights at work were abused and they decided to take a stand. The courage with which these women have struggled against injustice has been a constant source of inspiration. EWW acknowledges their individual strength and thanks them for their contribution to the collective struggle for women's equality.
Today over 60% of women in Alberta over age 15, or 525,000 women, are working for wages. We comprise over half of the Alberta labour force and our numbers are increasing every year.
We have become a permanent fixture of the economy and only the most backward-looking people would claim that our contribution is anything less than vital. Over 50% of families with two wage-earners would fall below the poverty line if one of the partners stopped working. In a time of high unemployment and economic restraint it is important that all recognize that women work because of economic necessity. It is crucial that we receive equal job opportunities devoid of discrimination based on our sex.
We must also facilitate women's equal participation in the labour force by developing better support services in this province. Of primary importance is the need for a high quality childcare system accessible to all. In the past decade over 56% of women in Alberta with pre-school age children were in the paid labour force. Unless society accepts its share of responsibility for childrearing women will never achieve full and equal participation in the work world.
Over 61 % of working women in Alberta are employed in the "job ghettoes": service, retail and clerical jobs which have traditionally been seen as "women's work". In fact, 83.6% of all clerical workers are women. Because very few of these occupations are unionized (less than one third of working women in Alberta belong to unions), women working in these areas suffer some of the worst wages and working conditions in the province. Particularly hard-hit are part time and domestic workers. Neither group receives adequate protection under Alberta labour legislation.
While you're working, or while you're looking for work, it's a good practice to keep a small notebook for writing down all the significant things that happen to you. Good records can be very handy if you need to up-date Jour resume, apply for unemployment insurance or simply make sure you got paid for all the hours you worked. They can be invaluable if you run into serious problems and decide to seek legal aid.
Upon learning that a woman is pregnant, an employer cannot fire her, reduce her hours or change the responsibilities of her job or her opportunity for promotion simply because she is pregnant. If a woman is capable of performing the duties of her job, she must be allowed to continue in the same capacity and with the same opportunities. However, if an employee is unable to fulfill her job responsibilities and reasonable accommodation is not possible, she should be treated in the same way as any other employee who is unable to carry out the responsibilities of the job.