WTUCWorld Trade Union Conference
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This article begins the process of resurrecting the WTUC by drawing on the account of some of its activities recorded in Edna's diaries during 1976.
The diaries not only reveal how Edna tried to grapple with the enormity of the task in placing women's issues on the trade union agenda in 1976 but also her apparent success in enabling the WTUC conference to achieve its aim as a catalyst in breaking down the entrenched sexism in the union movement.
According to Edna's diary, she prepared the submission for the WTUC in August 1975 on the encouragement of Barry Egan, a leading official in the Australian Workers Union (AWU), and a member of the IWY National Advisory Committee (NAC).
There is no doubt that the members of the NAC were impressed by Edna's credentials as an active feminist in the labour movement and were pleased to get the WTUC up and running with $40,000 for one year.
As the deputy convenor and instigator of the WTUC, Edna considered that as a retiree, she could not only devote all her time to it but would also become its driving force.
Edna viewed the WTUC as a consciousness raising vehicle for women trade unionists so they could develop a feminist agenda that would cut across all the political wings of the trade union movement.
As well as Edna and Linda Norton, they included Barry Egan's wife, Heather, and Betty Spears from the Federated Clerks Union, Pat Thompson from the AWU, Cathie Bloch from the New South Wales Teachers Federation, Aileen Beaver from the MWU and Helen Prendergast from the WTUC secretariat.
Attended by the state and federal industrial relations hierarchies in Sydney, as well as trade union representatives from across the political spectrum, Edna made it clear that the WTUC meant business.
However she managed to convince the committee that no draft be considered by the ACTU until the WTUC conference had an opportunity to discuss it.
A week later Edna realised that the WTUC had already achieved its goal in serving as a tool of empowerment for rank and file women trade unionists.
In creating the WTUC as the vehicle for empowering rank and file trade union women to transform the union movement from an exclusively male preserve into a more gender inclusive environment, Edna Ryan had taken a bold step.
In devising the WTUC as a game changer, Edna Ryan demonstrated how her extraordinary leadership skills could be used for the long-term benefit of women workers.