Speaking up for LGBT equality in a time of local government cuts

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2011

Conference deplores the unprecedented attacks on the rights of local government workers, on our terms and conditions and indeed on our very employment.

Conference notes that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers have been among the last to gain the protection of the law. Seeking to avoid anti-LGBT discrimination has therefore been an important part of the job choices of LGBT workers. Over the years, many LGBT workers have seen local government as the employer of choice.

This means that LGBT workers, like women, Black and disabled workers, are disproportionately affected by swingeing cuts to local government employment. In the fear and uncertainty of local government reorganisation and cuts, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can go unchallenged. Bullying increases and LGBT workers fear to complain while their jobs are threatened.

Conference does, however, welcome the 2010 Equality Act – one of the last Labour government’s final pieces of legislation. This provides a wide ranging basis for negotiating in local government workplaces, including on cuts and reorganisations. Conference pledges to use the Act to resist the erosion of the equalities agenda in this hostile climate.

Conference notes that local government employers have to demonstrate what they are doing to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups. For the first time in Britain, there is a statutory duty on local authorities to promote sexual orientation equality in employment and the requirement to promote equality for trans workers is strengthened.

This conference believes that many local government employers have given little thought to the needs of their LGBT workers or how to eliminate discrimination against them. Conference welcomes the LGBT bargaining tools available on UNISON’s website, including the fact sheets on lesbian, gay and bisexual workers rights, trans workers rights and on monitoring sexual orientation and gender identity. We need to ensure branches and activists make use of them.

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive, working with the LGBT self-organised group, to:

1) Promote the use of UNISON’s LGBT bargaining guides;

2)Promote use of the public sector equality duty to eliminate discrimination and fight cuts;

3)Maintain the high profile of UNISON’s commitment to LGBT equality in all the local government service group’s negotiating, organising and campaigning work;

4)Continue to campaign against the erosion of the equalities agenda in local government in the climate of public sector cuts.