Raising the profile of LGBT workplace equality in WET

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2015 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
23 February 2015

Conference welcomes the strong track record of our water, environment and transport (WET) service group on equality issues. Amongst other successes, this has resulted in a diversity of activists on our national WET service group bodies, reflecting UNISON’s rules on fair representation and proportionality. Conference acknowledges the importance of such role models and the contribution their expert knowledge can make.

Conference notes that LGBT members can be much less visible at branch and workplace level. A significant proportion of LGBT workers are not out at work or in the union about their sexual orientation or gender identity/gender history. This is because of continuing prejudice and discrimination in society and the fear of discrimination. It also depends on people’s individual circumstances and one LGBT person being out in a workplace does not necessarily mean others will feel safe to do the same. Some types of WET workplaces, such as some call centres, can have a higher profile for LGBT equality than some of the more traditional WET industry settings.

However, conference notes that there are number of steps WET branches can take to end the invisibility and isolation of LGBT workers across all WET workplaces. These include publicising and promoting our LGBT self-organised group; encouraging buddying and mentoring, and encouraging members to take up the position of branch LGBT officer to take this work forwards. As well as building our activist base and supporting equality bargaining, this can be a great recruitment tool amongst potential members.

Conference also notes that there are non-union LGBT groups who work with employers, providing advice, training and resources on LGBT equality. UNISON has a proud track record of community engagement and partnership working. However, we reassert the principles on which we base such collaboration. These include shared aims and values, mutual respect and public acknowledgment by the partner organisation of the legitimate role of trade unions in negotiating on equality and representing members.

Conference calls on the WET service group executive, working with the business and environment equal opportunities working party, to:

1)Urge WET branches to publicise and promote our LGBT self-organised group, its regional groups, national events and resources

2)Encourage every WET branch to seek to fill the branch LGBT officer position, noting the national training available and the support available from regional LGBT groups

3)Advise WET branches on matters to consider when WET employers seek to hire the services of non-union LGBT organisations.