Engaging Higher Education members for LGBT equality

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2018 Higher Education Service Group Conference
21 September 2017

Conference welcomes the high level of engagement of Higher Education (HE) members in UNISON’s second equality survey, conducted summer 2017, which gives useful insight into their experiences and involvement in UNISON. Conference also notes the responses from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members (LGBT), which reinforce the findings from the 2016 survey that LGBT members have good levels of involvement but face particularly high levels of discrimination and unfair treatment at work. One of the most startling findings for LGBT HE members is their very low levels of confidence that if they reported discrimination they would be taken seriously, compared to all HE members responding.

Conference further notes the current context of our Higher Education members workplace experiences, which includes continuing concerns about the erosion of pay and pensions, increasing workloads and uncertainty because of the UK exiting the EU, given the high numbers of EU workers and large amounts of EU funding which Higher Education institutions rely on.

Conference expresses its concern at the increasing pressure on our HE members, noting the well-established correlation between stress, bullying and health, which impacts particularly severely on groups of members who have faced historic disadvantage and institutional discrimination.

There are also additional fears for LGBT EU nationals, including those with non EU-partners whose status is dependent on EU person’s immigration status. Their identity and relationships may not be respected or recognised in either partner’s home country.

In this context, UNISON’s work for equality is more important than ever. This must be embedded and visible at branch, regional and national level.

Conference notes UNISON’s well-developed resources to support HE branches’ work for LGBT equality, including bargaining advice, organising resources, branch LGBT officer training, and strong regional LGBT organisation.

Conference urges the Higher Education service group executive to encourage Higher Education branches to:

1)Publicise and promote UNISON’s work for LGBT equality;

2)Seek to give LGBT members confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously;

3)Use UNISON LGBT bargaining resources to check and improve policies;

4)Include LGBT issues in work on the UK leaving the EU;

5)Promote members’ participation in regional LGBT groups;

6)Seek to fill branch LGBT officer posts, and signpost them to resources, training and support available;

7)Support local pride and other LGBT events, recognising their recruitment potential, in liaison with regional LGBT groups.