Challenging attacks on equality and human rights

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2012 National LGBT Conference
26 July 2012
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned about the Tory government’s ever deepening attacks on the equality and human rights framework and their impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members.

In May 2012, the government announced the outcome of its 2011 Red Tape Challenge ‘spotlight on equality’, which reviewed the 2010 Equality Act before the ink on the statute book barely had time to dry. Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May, said:

“Bureaucracy and prescription are no routes to equality. Over-burdening businesses benefits no-one.”

When the Government introduced the Equality Act 2010, it was already watered down from the intentions of the former Labour Government in order to ‘reduce the burden on employers’.

Now the Government is proposing to further delay the introduction of certain provisions of the Equality Act, repeal others and undermine the enforcement of equality and human rights. These proposed measures include:

1)Repeal of third party harassment provisions in the Equality Act which can protect workers from harassment by service users;

2)Review of the public sector equality duty to avoid ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’, both the general duty in s.149 of the Act and the specific duties for England;

3)Repeal of the socio-economic duty;

4)Not proceeding with dual discrimination provisions;

5)Removal of tribunal questionnaire procedures which help workers seek information from their employer to see if they have a potential case;

6)Repeal of the employment tribunal ‘wider recommendations’ powers following a finding of unlawful discrimination or harassment, which can require employers to make wider changes in the workplace;

7)Reforming the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), slashing its funding, remit and services;

8)Continuing to question the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights.

UNISON and our LGBT members campaigned long and hard for strengthened equality provisions and enforcement including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, we are all too aware that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still very much prevalent in the workplace and society. When terms and conditions are being slashed, job and pay cuts still occurring, LGBT members can become the target of discrimination and do not complain for fear of losing their job.

Weakening enforcement, the public sector duties and the powers of tribunals will make it easier for such discrimination to take place.

Conference calls on the National LGBT Committee working with other structures of the union including the National Executive Council and Labour Link to:

A)Campaign against weakening of the Equality Act 2010 and threats to the human rights framework;

B)Campaign specifically to defend the public sector equality duty, providing examples of where it is working well;

C)Continue to use the public sector equality duty to defend and improve employment and services;

D)Protest against the diminishing of the EHRC and further cuts to its budgets;

E)Urge the Labour party to restore its flagship 2010 Equality Act as intended when it returns to power.