Public services matter to LGBT people. Good services change lives.
Many LGBT people choose to work delivering public services, so public sector cuts affect LGBT people as workers and as service users.
UNISON believes the cuts are bad for the economy, bad for equality and bad for LGBT people. We call for a different future: we are fighting the cuts and defending public services.
The importance of equality
Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is part and parcel of building a fairer society. It’s threatened by this government’s attacks on public services and public service workers.
Public services matter to LGBT people, now more than ever.
Where mainstream services meet everyone’s needs or there are good services targeted at LGBT people, this changes lives. In some cases, it saves lives.
The damage caused by cuts will do
Like all vulnerable groups, when times get hard LGBT people need public services even more. But services for LGBT people are among the first to go when budgets are cut.
LGBT youth workers, HIV and sexual health services, gender reassignment services, hate crime officers, LGBT community groups, switchboards: all these are being cut.
They are a lifeline for those who use them, but they don’t win popularity contests.
In the workplace, bullying often increases in the face of reorganisation and redundancies. LGBT workers fear to complain when their jobs are at risk.
In 2013, UNISON commissioned NatCen to research how cuts affect LGBT people and services. The research has been repeated in 2016 and the results will be released on 22 November.
LGBT people, cuts and equality at work
Prejudice and discrimination mean many LGBT people keep their sexual orientation or gender history private.
Some employers and public service providers think they have no LGBT staff or clients. They are wrong: LGBT people are everywhere.
UNISON has been working for decades to make LGBT rights visible.
Employers and service providers must recognise that LGBT people are in all workforces and communities. The 2010 Equality Act requires public bodies to take active steps to promote equality for LGBT people.
It’s no excuse to say they don’t know what people need – they have a duty to find out.
Public-sector cuts are threatening equality gains we’ve won in the past.
We reject the view that there is no alternative: the cuts are ideologically driven by this Tory-led government. It simply wants to reduce the public services we rely on.
UNISON works to make sure the voices of LGBT members are heard, in the good times and the bad. We defend public services and promote equality.
There’s never been a more important time for LGBT workers to be in a trade union. Join us.
The fact that LGB people would not even consider certain jobs for fear of other people’s reaction is a worrying sign that prejudice and discrimination still limit people’s choices and chances in life
Add your voice
We need as many people as possible to speak out against cuts:
- talk to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbours;
- raise your concerns with your employer, local media, local councillors and MPs;
- take the campaign against cuts to workplace or community meetings – or organise your own – we can help with materials and speakers (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Real story: Melanie Fender, traffic warden
Over the years, I have seen so many really talented people come through the ranks due to the support they have received from the self-organised groups
Those re the words of Melanie Fender, a traffic warden – or, to give it what she calls its “posh name”, a civil enforcement officer.
She first joined the union in 1991 when she worked in the NHS and became a rep to help tackle equality issues in the workplace.
She feels that UNISON’s structures – which enable LGBT members to work together in a ‘self-organised group’ so hat the union hears the voices of a group which is often otherwise under-represented -have been key to her growth as an activist.
“It is great when you see new members joining self-organised groups and progressing to senior positions, not only within their branch but also at regional and national level,” she says.
Melanie herself has certainly progressed. She is now a member of the union’s national executive council, the union’s senior lay body and she’s keen to encourage other members to get more involved.
“Hopefully, it will encourage other members of LGBT groups to stand for positions on the NEC, so that we can make a difference, not only within our own union, but politically as well,” she says.
And how about new LGBT UNISON members?
“If you are interested in progressing through the union, I’d advise you to become a member of your local self-organised group, where you will meet really great people and receive plenty of support.
“Remember, if you are not out within your branch, you can contact your regional equalities officer who can arrange for you to attend regional meetings.
“Self-organisation really works, and together we can get our message heard, and continue to fight for equalities.”
Real story: Kameron Paul, park ranger
Attending national self-organised group network meetings and national conference is really positive and constructive.
“It gives you more confidence. So my message is: don’t be afraid, stay focused and get involved.”
Kameron is a park ranger working for Wolverhampton City Council, looking after urban green spaces and country parks.
He joined the union when he started his job, and then became active because “there were issues that needed to be raised”.
Eventually he and his colleagues, with UNISON’s support, were able to tackle the difficulties they were experiencing around sex discrimination, pay and grading.
Kameron first got involved with UNISON’s Black members’ self-organised group and, he says, “it just snowballed from there”.
Since then he’s got involved in campaigns, gone on marches, worked with community groups and is now also a school governor.
He attended his first LGBT national conference in 2011 as a branch delegate and would encourage any member to get involved.