Bringing in the LGBT Vote for Public Services, Jobs and Growth

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2014 National Delegate Conference
24 February 2014

Conference recognises the importance of getting UNISON’s campaign messages out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, particularly as we approach the next general election.

Conference notes the Tories’ success in convincing many of the lie that their devastating cuts to jobs and public services are fair, necessary and good for the economy. They portray workers rights and equality protections as burdensome red tape, stifling growth. Even relatively union-friendly media have failed to effectively challenge this.

Conference is also deeply concerned about the rising profile and electoral performance of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Despite UKIP’s desire to slash public sector jobs and National Health Service (NHS) funding, MORI polling suggests that UKIP support is high amongst public sector workers.

UKIP want the United Kingdom (UK) to withdraw from the European Union (EU) because they want to end regulations on weekly working hours, holidays and overtime and get rid of statutory sick pay and maternity pay. They are also opposed to equal marriage. Instead of acknowledging the real causes of the double dip recession, UKIP scapegoats migrant workers, blaming them for unemployment, poverty wages, NHS queues, overcrowded schools and lack of affordable housing.

Persistent harassment and discrimination or lack of recognition can turn LGBT people away from political engagement. This may leave them – and other disadvantaged groups – more easily influenced by the corporate bias in the media, which persistently ignores and denigrates trade unions.

We must show the real problems, such as successive governments not investing in housing, and how low wages and unemployment are an inevitable consequence of this Tory-led government rolling back employment rights, refusing to protect vulnerable, agency and contract workers and failing to invest in growth.

We must spread our campaign messages through traditional face to face contact and mailings and through tools such as social media. We must reach out to disaffected and disengaged communities to explain why we need a change of government.

Conference acknowledges the role of the LGBT group in politicising and recruiting LGBT members – like recruits like. Branch and regional LGBT groups attend scores of pride and community events, recruiting, reaching existing members and encouraging trade union and broader political activism. But conference recognises that the LGBT group cannot do this on its own – all parts of our union must address LGBT equality, include LGBT concerns in all of our campaigning work and bring LGBT workers into UNISON.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with the self-organised groups towards the election of a pro-public services government in 2015 by:

1)Encouraging branches, regions and service groups to involve self-organised groups in recruitment strategies and community campaigns, encouraging people to register to vote and to use their votes for public services;

2)Highlighting the damage the Tory-led government is inflicting on public services in general and also on tailored services for LGBT people;

3)Reaching out to non-traditional audiences by encouraging and promoting trade union specific social media training and campaigning;

4)Raising awareness of UKIP’s policies, including their opposition to workers’ rights, equality protections and equal marriage, and exposing their myths about migrant workers;

5)Raising awareness of the effects of anti-discrimination legislation;

6)Working with Labour Link to seek to ensure the policy programme of the next Labour government focuses on the real causes of the recession; invests in growth, a living wage for all, including agency and contract workers, and affordable housing; and returns to its previous task of strengthening equality laws.