Negotiating for equality in a time of local government cuts

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
20 February 2013

Conference notes that the Tory-led government’s onslaught on public service workers and their failed austerity measures have led to worsening terms and conditions for local government workers. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers are affected like any other local government worker as pay and conditions are undermined.

But the impact on terms and conditions for different groups of workers is rarely equal.

Conference believes that the scale of the challenge we face in terms of fighting the local government pay freeze, redundancies, and attacks on terms and conditions, must not distract us from continuing to negotiate for equality in this time of cuts in local government.

This includes negotiating for robust assessment of the equality impact of changes to terms and conditions and mitigating action to reduce any unequal impact. It also includes continuing to seek improvements to workplace equality policy and practice for LGBT workers, and particularly transgender workers, given historic and persistent discrimination.

A recent Government Equalities Office survey found that nearly half of transgender employees experienced discrimination or harassment. Transitioning at work was highlighted as one of the most significant triggers for discrimination. Some people seek to conceal their gender identity, delaying gender reassignment to avoid discrimination. However they pay a high price for this in terms of their health and well-being.

Transgender workers experience discrimination in a wide range of ways – in seeking time off for consultations and treatment, being denied the right to use facilities, employers failing to protect workers experiencing harassment or discrimination from staff and service users, and much more. Transgender workers may be more reluctant to raise these issues when their jobs are already at risk. However, as a result of this discrimination, our transgender members in local government are often the first in line for redundancy at a time of swingeing cuts.

Conference welcomes local negotiating successes that are still being achieved. For example, following an impassioned debate on tackling workplace transphobia at last November’s UNISON LGBT conference, the branch secretary of a Scottish local government branch negotiated an improved policy on transgender equality, based on UNISON’s bargaining advice on transgender workers rights. Another local government branch saved a transgender member’s job by realising that the root of a workplace problem was fear of transphobic discrimination and the lack of trans equality policies, which they then negotiated.

Conference therefore calls on the local government service group executive, working with the National LGBT Committee to:

1)promote the use of UNISON’s guidance and factsheets on negotiating for LGBT workers’ rights amongst local government branches, and in particular the factsheet “Transgender workers rights” and UNISON’s “Introductory Guide for Trade Union Reps Supporting Trans Members”

2)urge local government branches to:

a)strengthen self-organisation;

b)involve LGBT members in bargaining, including assessing the equality impact of proposals; and

c)report back on bargaining gains and successful cases to build and publicise our database of good practice across local government.