27 Sep 2007

Public Services International / Education International LGBT Summit

I had the opportunity to be part of the UNISON delegation to the EI / PSI LGBT Summit in Vienna from the 21st to the 22nd of September 2007 in Vienna which was an excellent and rare experience being able to network and listen to first hand experiences of people from other parts of the world who are persecuted because they are lgbt and because they are trade unionists. We heard that neo-liberal and conservative forces are increasingly exploiting anti-gay prejudice to undermine trade union and community campaigns. Juan Carlos Paniagua, of PSI’s Costa Rican affiliate ANEP told us that he was forced to move house after receiving death threats in a government-backed attempt to undermine the campaign against a proposed free trade agreement. He said said "As a union member and gay activist I have been subject to intimidation and discrimination at home and in the workplace, but I don’t feel afraid. I feel brave, which gives me the strength to keep on ghting for human rights, workers’ rights and LGBT rights," he said. Juan Carlos called on all trade unionists, especially those in EU countries, to insist that their governments ensure that trade agreements support human and workplace rights. Juan Carlos was one of the PSI guests to UNISON's LGBT Conference in 2005 which we held in Belfast.

PSI also launched a guide ‘Trade Unionists Together for LGBT Rights’ which is the first international guide to achieving equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered workers.
Penned by Martin Moriarty who has worked on many UNISON publications he reminded us that despite many legislative improvements around the world, institutional discrimination against gays on issues like pensions, taxation, leave and family-friendly policies remains common in most countries. The fear of harassment means LGBT workers in all countries are unlikely to be ‘out’ at work, even if their family and friends are aware of their sexuality.
The booklet describes how recent decisions in international institutions can be harnessed to protect LGBT workers, fight discrimination, and enhance gay rights. It also contains good practice examples of model agreements including UNISON's very own. To supplement the guide PSI and EI have also launched a LGBT website containing details of contacts and resources.

UNISON ran a workshop at the conference which was really well received focusing on changing the culture within your unions.

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