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TUC LGBT+ conference 2017

11 July 2017

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales, and delegates heard that while there have been huge changes in rights for the LGBT+ community, many face discrimination and harassment at work.

That is perhaps why only half of LGBT+ people told the TUC said they were open about their sexuality in the workplace, although this fell to about a third (36 per cent) among young people.

Stephen Doughty MP, one of the keynote speakers at the TUC's LGBT+ conference, said that while attitudes were changing, the fight for equality and rights continued and the Labour Party in its manifesto had called for more to be done to combat hate crimes.

The conference also heard from Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall , who called for a new gender recognition law and more resources to deal with mental health  problems in the LGBT+ community. Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co- founder of UK black pride, talked about intersectionality and the need for this concept to be at the forefront combating endemic racism and homophobia inside and outside of the community. Lucy Anderson MEP  said that in light of Brexit and the government's alliance with the DUP, the fight for equality and fundamental rights must continue and those already secured not be taken for granted.

The TUC launched The Cost of Being Out at Work report  and results of a survey and research into the experiences of LGBT+  people in the workplace. It found that:

  • Nearly two in five (39 per cent) of all respondents had been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague, a quarter (29 per cent) by a manager and around one in seven (14 per cent) by a client or patient.
  • Only a third of respondents (34 per cent) reported the latest incident of harassment or discrimination to their employer.
  • Almost half of trans people had experienced bullying or harassment at work compared to just over a third of non-trans respondents.
  • Two-thirds said they heard homophobic or bi-phobic remarks or jokes directed to others at work, while more than a quarter had such comments directed at them.

The report said this stark picture also highlighted how many workers face multiple discrimination based on their sexuality, sex, race, disability or age. It said those in the most precarious position, such as workers on casualised contracts, faced additional barriers in challenging discrimination in the workplace. It said:

"While many LGBT+ workers responding to our survey have reported positive experiences at work in our survey, the majority have been subjected to or witnessed some form of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at work. The impact of this on individuals, their families and their work can be significant. Over half (52 per cent) of respondents who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that it had a negative impact on their mental health, while a third said that it had had a negative effect on their performance at work. "

The report called for employers, government and unions to offer greater support to LGBT+ workers and legislation to place a duty on employers to protect workers from third party harassment. Employers must have an equality policy in place which should be updated to include trans workers and the whole workforce must be made to adhere to it, with equality training mandatory for all staff.  Unions must review training for their reps on transgender and other sexual and gender identities. 

Motions at conference noted that while rights have improved for most parts of the UK, homosexual activity and other forms of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression remains a criminal offence in 36 of the 52 Commonwealth states, some maintaining the death penalty and in Donald Trump's America LGBT+ rights are under threat, with members of the new administration, including Mike Pence and Ken Blackwell, who have refused to condemn conversion therapy.

Conference called on the TUC to support the campaign for inclusive statutory sex and relationship education and for the rights of LGBT+ young people to be fully included in this part of the curriculum and conference further instructed the TUC to support the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s Love Equality campaign in its pursuit for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

The NUJ supports LGBT+ workers and the union also offers guidance on reporting LGBT+ issues, including reporting HIV. 

The NUJ's delegates were Adam Christie, Guy Thornton and Eleanor Lisney and the union's motion noted the emergence of “fake news” as a major political threat around the world and said it posed a danger for marginalising and repressing LGBT+ people, individually and collectively. The motion called on the TUC to support NUJ initiatives, such as Local News Matters, to protect journalism, challenge and minimise fake news.

Challenging Fake News

Conference notes the emergence of “fake news” as a major political threat around the world over the last year – and that this represents specific dangers for marginalising and repressing LGBT+ people, both individually and collectively.
Conference condemns the publication of any material that oppresses any minorities, particularly through “fake news” that perpetuates discrimination and prejudice.
In this light, the NUJ’s code of conduct – which obliges members to differentiate clearly between fact and opinion – can be regarded as an indicator that journalists have tried to establish the veracity of particular news items and their sources.
However, conference remains concerned that continuing cuts to the resources (in terms of appropriately skilled workers, workloads and the time available for fact-checking) across the news industry makes it increasingly difficult for NUJ members to be journalists rather than “churnalists”.
Conference calls on the TUC and affiliated unions to:

  • support NUJ initiatives – such as the continuing Local News Matters campaign – to protect journalism, challenge and minimise “fake news”;
  • to promote NUJ membership for press officers and (corporate) communications - protecting them from pressures to produce material which may otherwise contravene the union’s code of conduct. 

Tags: , lgbt+, tuc, equality, discrimination, harassment, bullying, sex and relationship education, ituc, northern ireland