Operational Staff Groups

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2006 National LGBT Conference
24 July 2006
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that a number of public sector employers are engaged in a process of setting up staff groups, from workers who self-identify within equality and diversity strands. Examples are groups for women, for black and minority workers, for disabled workers and for LGBT workers.

These groups can inform and advise the employer on matters of relevance and significance to their equality strand. As such, they can serve as a mirror for UNISON’s own self organised group (SOG) structures.

Conference welcomes the creation of these operational groups, which can provide useful visibility of typically under-represented sectors of the workforce. However, Conference notes that the creation of some groups, such as those for disabled workers, can be on the back of statutory requirements like Public Equality Duties. These duties do not currently exist for sexual orientation and gender identity (although it is expected that the new statutory gender duty which comes into force in April 2007 will place a responsibility on public bodies to actively ensure the inclusion of trans people in all their activities). Employers may consequently invest less time and funding in the development and engagement of LGBT groups, than they would for those dealing with matters such as race and disability.

Conference also notes the potential for some employers to use these operational groups to bypass the trade unions, introducing the prospect of parallel consultation on issues such as policy assessment and conditions of service. Indeed some employers deliberately use staff groups to undermine or completely bypass collective bargaining with trade unions.

Conference therefore calls on the National LGBT Committee to work with the NEC, regional LGBT groups and other appropriate bodies of UNISON in order to:

1.Conduct a survey of branches via regional groups to determine approximate numbers and patterns of these operational groups within the workplace;

2.Seek best practice examples from branches who have established a satisfactory position with their employers in terms of operational groups; and

3.Use the feedback from this work to create bargaining support and other guidance for branches and other activists.