CWU Equality Month: Trade unionists led fight for LGBT+ rights, and we still have a job to do in tackling intoleranceEducation, Equalities March 23 2021
We enter our final week of CWU Equality Month, a week of focusing on LGBT+ issues. TUC’s Quinn Roache guest writes for us on how to tackle intolerance in the workplace, and supporting LGBT+ colleagues.
The last 12 months have been tough. The pandemic has had a massive impact on the LGBT+ Community. It’s forced us away from our chosen families and support structures and often made us live with people who don’t accept us. In short the last year has been tough for everyone, but particularly for our community.
But it has made me reflect on how far we’ve come in the pursuit of LGBT+ equality and how trade unions have been the heart of change driving it forward.
In the 1970’s our members were a part of the ‘Gay Liberation Front’ and the ‘Campaign for Homosexual Equality.’ If you’ve ever seen the movie Pride, you’ll know that it was the National Union of Miners that supported a motion promoting lesbian and gay rights at the TUC’s congress in 1985. This is turn ensured the Labour Party adopted progressive policies in opposition and later in government.
In the last two decades alone the TUC, trade unions and their LGBT+ activists have:
- Lobbied for and won civil partnerships and the introduction of equal marriage in the UK
- Lobbied for greater legal protections for LGBT people at work far in advance of legislation brought in by the EU in 2000 that was introduced in the UK in 2003.
- Successfully challenged the UK 2003 interpretation of EU law, which allowed an organisation with a religious exception to dismiss someone for being gay. This meant exceptions could only be applied in the narrowest circumstances.
- Lobbied to ensure pension rights were not capped for same sex couples entering into civil partnerships and same sex marriage
- Trained our reps to support LGBT+ colleagues facing workplace discrimination
- Supported, started and ran UK Black Pride , with prominent trade union figure and former TUC LGBT+ Committee Member Lady Phyll leading the movement.
- Commissioned and published research showing the extent of LGBT discrimination at work
- Conducted the first research into sexual harassment of LGBT workers
- Produced guidance on how to support trans people at work, how to be a good trans ally, on what trade unionist can do if they see a trans hate crime and on what trade union reps can do to support non-binary members.
We are also lobbying for progressive changes to the Gender Recognition Act to bring it in line with global best practice. IE that is a simplified, free, statutory gender recognition process based on self-declaration.
More work to do
We’ve come a long way since the 1970’s in our fight for equality but there’s more to be done.
We must redouble our efforts to bring about equality at work and in society at large. We must ensure all LGBT+ people have equal life chances.
The trade union movement brings people together through a commitment to equality and our real life experience of the challenges facing working people.
We oppose any violence or intimidation, bullying or disrespect, towards any group that faces discrimination, and from whatever quarter.
That’s why we will continue to lead the fight for LGBT+ equality and keep standing up for our values.
This March is Equality Month at CWU and we will be hosting a range of events, workshops and courses to celebrate. See the full programme (some details to be added throughout the month) and register for our online events.