Raise health and safety concerns to help LGBT members

28 April is Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD). Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments or in tragic “accidents”: they die because an employer decided that their safety and their health just wasn’t that important.

Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers. The day’s tagline is ‘remember the dead, but fight like hell for the living’.

So just what relevance is WMD to you as an equalities or LGBT activist or to LGBT members?

Too often, the effects of work-related stress and mental health problems due to bullying, harassment and discrimination aren’t considered as a health and safety problem, particularly by employers.

UNISON branches must make sure they don’t overlook them too, including the risk to the health and safety of LGBT members due to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

Workers’ Memorial Day is an opportunity to focus on health and safety, and for equalities and LGBT activists to highlight LGBT health and safety issues. So what can activists do?

  • Talk to your local Health & Safety rep and your branch’s Health & Safety Officer to find out what events and publicity your branch has planned for Workers’ Memorial Day. Do they include work-related stress and mental health problems, including the effects of bullying, harassment and discrimination, and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia?
  • Ask your branch to include information on bullying, harassment and discrimination due to homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in its Workers’ Memorial Day plans.
  • Ask you branch if you can have a display on LGBT issues on Workers’ Memorial Day.
  • Write an article for your branch’s newsletter on LGBT health and safety issues.
  • Let us know if you’ve come up with another idea!

Your branch should be using Workers’ Memorial Day as a recruitment opportunity. Health and safety is one of the most successful recruiting opportunities, as health and safety affects not just members, but non-members as well.

By highlighting LGBT health and safety issues, you engage with LGBT members and also demonstrate to LGBT non-members that UNISON is serious about tackling LGBT issues.

Why not set yourself a recruitment target for Workers’ Memorial Day? Set your target high enough to give yourself a challenge, but realistic enough that your target is achieveable.   

If you can’t have your own display, is it possible for you to have an input into your branch’s planned WMD events and displays?

LGBT publicity materials with stock numbers can be ordered through UNISON’s online ordering system - http://www.unison.org.uk/resources/onlinecatalogue.asp. To order, you’ll need your UNISON membership number and your branch’s 5-digit branch code (if you don’t know the code, your Branch Secretary or Chair should be able to advise you what it is).

You print other LGBT materials direct from the LGBT pages of UNISON’s website here, where there is a full list of resources available.

Find out if your employer has policies on bullying and harassment. Do they specifically include homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and discrimination? Is there a policy on managing and supporting trans members in the workplace who are transitioning?

Check the policies against UNISON’s LGB and trans bargaining factsheets on the website.  Could they be improved?

Bring the policies to the attention of your branch and explain why you feel they are lacking. Can your branch influence a review of policies through its normal consultative meetings with the employer, or push for the development of policies where they are missing?

Use every opportunity in UNISON and your branch’s events calendar to highlight LGBT issues!

Whatever you plan to do on Workers’ Memorial Day, we want to hear about it, so let us know what you’re planning, take photos if appropriate, and send us a copy of newsletter articles etc to out@unison.co.uk .

Remember the dead but fight for the living!