UniteLive stories of the year - Get Me Home Safely goes global

On International Women's Day, Unite celebrates one-year anniversary of Get Me Home Safely campaign amid transport sector wins

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Every day over the Christmas period, UniteLive is running a different story from our top stories of 2023. Today, we look back at our Get Me Home Safely Campaign, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in March and highlight the many wins the campaign has had since.

As the world today (March 8) celebrates International Women’s Day, Unite also marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of its seminal Get Me Home Safely campaign.

First developed in 2021, the campaign was born in reaction to women being sexually assaulted while getting to or leaving work.

The campaign has had a number of successes – and now Get Me Home Safely’s unstoppable momentum has carried the campaign beyond the UK’s borders. Earlier this year, Unite presented a motion to the European Transport Federation (ETF), a pan-European transport federation of trade unions, which was unanimously agreed.

From today (March 8) the ETF launches its own Get Me Home Safely campaign thanks to Unite. The ETF’s campaign, modelled after Unite’s, will advocate for safe commuting to work for transport workers to become a political, employer, and local community obligation.

All ETF-affiliated unions will take the campaign’s demands up nationally in their home countries beginning today.

Commenting on the ETF launch, ETF deputy general secretary Sabine Trier said, “On this International Women’s Day, we urge policymakers, employers, and local communities to ensure that women transport workers can safely commute to and from work.

“We must address this issue immediately because a lack of safe commuting options is not only a violation of women’s rights but also a significant barrier to attracting and retaining women in the transport industry,” she added.

Unite national secretary for Stagecoach Tracey Clugston, who represents Unite at the ETF and has been heavily involved in the campaign, praised ETF adopting Get Me Home Safely.

Tracey accompanied Unite researcher and GMHS lead Irina Do Carmo and Unite national officer for transport Bobby Morton to Brussels to present the GMHS campaign, and she said she was thrilled that ETF has joined the fight for safe travel for women.

“It was absolutely fantastic that the ETF has taken up our campaign,” Tracey said. “I felt so proud when we went to speak to the ETF in Brussels about it, and they instantly got it – they were on board from the beginning. The campaign is just as important in Europe as it is in the UK, because women workers everywhere are facing the exact same issues.”

Irina noted that Unite is now set to present the campaign to the International Transport Federation (ITF) at a meeting in South Africa in the coming weeks.

“What started as a cross-sector campaign to tackle gender-based violence has the potential to become a global movement to get all women home safely and improve transport for all,” Irina said.

Transport sector wins

From the campaign’s inception, a number of councils and hospitality businesses have adopted Get Me Home Safely recommendations, which include, for example, businesses agreeing to pay for safe late-night transport home for workers or, in the case of councils, introducing licencing amendments so that business are required to pay for safe transport.

In recent months, the Get Me Home Safely Campaign has also made notable in-roads in the transport sector, Irina explained.

Irina told UniteLive that in a recent pay and conditions dispute with bus operator Abellio in London, the union was able to introduce the Get Me Home Safely campaign as part of negotiations that ended the dispute.

“The company was very receptive and they’ve now incorporated Get Me Home Safely as part of the agreement – this is the first bus operator to do so, so it’s really significant,” Irina said. “This means that Abellio workers will now get paid safe transport home from work if they finish after 10pm.”

Also in the bus sector, Unite reps employed by National Express in the West Midlands introduced the campaign to the company in a series of meetings.

“National Express was very interested in working with us to improve safety for women on their buses,” Irina explained. “Out of those discussions, the company has now introduced a number of unprecedented safety measures.”

These measures include signage on all their buses that warn passengers that National Express has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment or assault, to act as a potential deterrent to perpetrators. The signage on buses also includes a QR code so that women who have suffered an assault can discreetly report the incident if they don’t feel comfortable alerting the driver.

National Express is also seeking permission from transport authorities to change the rule that buses must only stop in designated areas at night. If the rule is successfully changed, this would enable bus drivers to get women closer to their destination if they feel unsafe.

“This potential rule change would make a massive difference for the safety of women commuting on buses, especially during unsocial hours,” Irina explained.

Stagecoach is another bus operator that has engaged with Unite over the Get Me Home Safely campaign – it has adopted many of the campaign’s recommendations, including beginning to look at risk assessments for individual workers traveling to and from work during unsocial hours, and also reviewing facilities for workers such as parking and access to safe transport after workers finish shifts.

Tracey, who also represents Unite on the women’s committee and the union’s Executive council, hailed the success they’ve had in the bus transport sector.

“After everything that’s happened  in the  last few years — women being not just assaulted but murdered after trying to get home at night — we need to get women home safely and our industry has a huge role to play,” she said.

“We can play that role by helping women who work in hospitality and other night-time industries, but we also have to ensure that our own women working in transport get home safely too,” Tracey added. “There’s still lots of work to be done.”

Indeed – the Get Me Home Safely campaign will not stop until safe transport home for women becomes the norm. As Unite hospitality activist Caitlin Lee’s story — where she herself was sexually assaulted after having no choice but to walk home after work – shows, the fight doesn’t end until all women have access to safe transport.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham hailed the campaign on its one-year anniversary.

“Today marks the year anniversary of Unite’s #GetMeHomeSafely campaign, a campaign launched in 2021 after union member Caitlin Lee was sexually assaulted walking home from work after her employer,” she said. “The campaign continues to gain momentum throughout the UK and Unite won’t stop until the impossible choice of staying safe or saving wages is made a thing of the past.”

You can find out more about Unite’s Get Me Home Safely campaign, and how you can get involved, on our campaign page here.

By Hajera Blagg