Why we do international work

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2015 National LGBT Conference
24 July 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference notes UNISON’s long, proud history of internationalism. UNISON is known here and globally for its internationalist perspective on all areas: from organising and fighting privatisation to defending employment and trade union rights.

The neo-liberal economic model behind privatisation and outsourcing, cuts in public spending and taxation, the driving down of workers and trade union rights are all global. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the comprehensive free trade and investment treaty being negotiated between the European Union and United States – could have a major impact on our public services and rights as workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. UNISON has no option but to respond to these threats by working as part of the European and international trade union movement.

UNISON’s international work includes links with sister unions throughout the world – many of whom face similar challenges to our own – and solidarity work: speaking out when fellow trade unionists are under threat, and longer term work with sister unions and solidarity organisations.

UNISON’s LGBT group has a strong tradition and practice of internationalism. All the national committee’s international work is aimed at furthering UNISON’s agenda. It is underpinned by the golden principle of solidarity – asking those affected and listening carefully before we act, not deciding for ourselves how to respond.

For many years, UNISON has played an important role in ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) Association, the global federation of LGBTI organisations.

We seek to ensure that LGBT rights are raised in all international forums in which UNISON works and trade unionism is raised in all LGBT forums in which we work. UNISON has been instrumental in increasing recognition by global and European trade union bodies of LGBT workplace discrimination and how to address it.

Although globally, most individual unions do not work on LGBT rights, a growing minority do and UNISON has links with most of these. Many are affiliated to ILGA. We welcome UNISON’s first LGBT International Development Fund project, based in South Africa. The Fund works with unions in developing countries to improve their capacity to organise, defend and promote rights and represent workers.

We work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to develop and promote campaigning against ‘pinkwashing’ and for boycott, divestment and sanctions, including helping Palestine Solidarity have a profile at pride events across the United Kingdom.

We lend UNISON’s name to LGBT groups facing particularly challenging situations, where they have sought our support, for example sending messages of support to the organisers of the first Cyprus Pride.

Conference therefore calls on the national LGBT committee to continue to:

1. Work with the National Executive Council international committee to encourage initiatives for LGBT equality;

2. Promote an internationalist perspective amongst LGBT members, encouraging them to get involved in international work through their branches or regions;

3. Encourage LGBT members and groups to support ILGA, making use of its great resources;

4. Seek further opportunities to utilise UNISON’s International Development Fund.