Friday, 6 July 2012

Taking Pride - TUC LGBT Conference 2012

For the last two days, over 200 delegates to the TUC LGBT Conference have been meeting at Congress House in London under the banner of “against austerity, for solidarity”.

As a straight member of the National Executive, I was made to feel very welcome by the excellent NUT delegation. Throughout the conference, I was impressed by the determination expressed by the many trade unionists present and enjoyed the opportunity to hear colleagues discussing some of the key issues facing LGBT workers.

Of course, many of those issues are common to all workers – the attacks on pay, pensions, jobs and services. However, LGBT people often find themselves at the forefront of those attacks, with services LGBT people rely upon often first in line for cuts, too often vulnerable to workplace bullying, and specifically hit by the Government’s supposed ‘Red Tape Challenge’ which will cut Equality legislation.

The NUT’s motion condemning Government privatisation and cuts ‘on services, education and provision for LGBT young people’ was passed unanimously. I was asked to second a motion tabled by the NASUWT – also unanimously supported – applauding “action by affiliates” campaigning on pay, pensions, working conditions and job security. It was encouraging to be applauded when I said that, not only were the NUT looking forward to taking joint action with the NASUWT, but we hoped that many other TUC affiliates would also join us in further joint strike action too.

Conference debates covered a range of issues, such as the international persecution facing LGBT people, homophobic bullying in schools, civil marriages and partnerships and tackling workplace prejudice.

As with many TUC conferences, there were few motions where clear differences were expressed. However, the NUT did speak and vote against a UNISON amendment which, while rightly criticising the prejudice that can particularly exist in some faith schools, wrongly said that tackling bullying in schools was “unachievable”. There was also a close vote on a motion from TSSA which called for the UK to use its ‘unique influence in Commonwealth countries to achieve progress in LGBT rights’. In this case, I agreed with a UNISON speaker who pointed out that we cannot ignore the fact that some of the repression stems from homophobic legislation originally imposed by British imperialism itself.

A motion from UNITE suggesting that the TUC should support Cameron’s threats to withdraw aid from countries who do not “adhere to proper human rights” was remitted. However, an alternative motion from the PCS was agreed, correctly pointing out in my views the dangers of such an approach as, “this creates alienation of LGBT people everywhere and diverts attention from our economic crisis caused by the government’s discriminatory austerity measures and bankers’ greed”.

Emergency motions were agreed calling for a massive turnout on 20 October, to oppose the Government attacks on the Equality Act and Equality and Human Rights Commission and, as the first business of Conference, to oppose the “drastic curtailment of events planned for 2012 World Pride” in London this Saturday and for an urgent discussion of “how to avoid such a fiasco in future years”. 

Some speakers shared the viewpoint expressed in the centre-page article in this week’s copy of ‘the Socialist’ that we need to “keep big business out of Pride events”. It was announced that the TUC will be hosting a discussion at 7pm at Congress House on Monday July 16 to discuss the lessons of this year's curtailed Pride and to plan ahead for the future.

World Pride, even without all its floats and events, will still be a great opportunity to celebrate and protest this weekend. The trade union ‘walking group’ will be gathering at 10.15 am on Baker Street between Fitzharding Street and George Street. The procession will finish with a rally in Trafalgar Square, where the NUT will also have a stall (... and that's where I'll be!), in front of the National Gallery. 

The NUT at Pride 2012

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