Trans equality in Energy – louder and prouder!

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2022 Energy Service Group Conference
22 February 2022

The toxic debate ignited by the United Kingdom government’s consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act underlined the importance of our union, including branches in the energy service group, supporting and representing our trans members effectively

Attacks on trans rights have escalated further in the past year. There has been a sustained attack on Stonewall’s trans inclusive Diversity Champions programme, which some employers in energy may be members of, and repeated false claims that Stonewall is misinterpreting the Equality Act’s protected characteristic of gender reassignment in its advice to organisations.

The tactics being used, particularly the vilification of trans women, by those campaigning to roll back the existing rights of trans people, including ‘gender critical’ and anti-trans groups, are almost identical to the tactics seen around the time of Section 28, when gay men were portrayed as sexual predators and a danger to children to spread fear and mistrust.

There is also growing evidence that the concerted international campaign against trans people is linked to far right and religious-right groups. Targeting a minority, and spreading false information to provoke hatred and distrust by preying on people’s fears, are classic far right recruitment tactics

Conference acknowledges that Trans members in the service group may be experiencing discrimination and transphobia and/or feeling that their workplace is not a safe place to disclose their gender identity.

Conference therefore recognises the need for our union, including the energy service group, to become more visible and more vocal – louder and prouder – in supporting and promoting Trans equality.

This must include the Service Group Executive continuing to encourage the negotiation of inclusive language in agreements and policies, and of inclusive practices and procedures, across the service group, but there are some practical steps that branches can take alongside this

Some workplaces already use pronouns on name badges, ID cards and email signatures, but not many. If more did, this would help alleviate the awkward questions that some Trans and non-binary members can face on a day to day basis, and also allow other members to show their understanding of the importance of respecting people’s pronouns. Conference therefore welcomes the UNISON ‘Why pronouns are important’ factsheet which can be used by branches to raise these issues with employers.

Further, some of our Trans and non-binary members work in contact centres or regularly speak to members of the public by phone as part of their jobs. They can face upsetting assumptions about their gender identity, including hostility and confrontation. Similarly, Trans and non-binary people can face unintentional misgendering on the phone by some staff. Conference therefore welcomes the guidance being produced by the National LGBT+ Committee on the best practice words and phrases for staff to use when dealing with people on the phone, which can then be used to assist in the training of call taking staff and by individual members as a learning resource

Conference therefore calls on the Energy Service Group Executive to work with the National LGBT+ Committee and other parts of the union as appropriate to:

1)Explore ways to increase the strength and visibility of UNISON’s work to promote Trans equality in the service group

2)Urge branches to promote the fact sheet ‘Why pronouns are important’ and to ask employers to adopt a policy that allows all staff to have their pronouns on name badges, ID cards and email signatures

3)Encourage branches to urge employers to join the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme if they are not already members

4)Publicise and promote the guidance on best practice in dealing with people on the phone

5)Promote the UNISON fact sheet ‘How to be a Trans ally’ and trans ally training widely within the service group

6)Encourage members in the service group who have been on the Trans ally training to join the Trans ally’s network being set up by the National LGBT+ Committee

7)Promote materials, when available, to help members in the service group to counter the ‘gender critical’ narrative and provide information on the links between the gender critical movement in the UK and the far right.