Equalities news

LGBT | 09.11.2012

TUC LGBT Conference 2012

The 15th Annual TUC LGBT Conference took place on 5 and 6 July 2012 in Congress House, London.

The Conference was attended by 216 delegates, representing 28 unions. The POA was represented by Su Akram, Peter Allen, Barbara Baker, Glen Birchall, Helen Hutchinson, Stewart McLaughlin, Anne Ruzylo and Perry Thomas. Brian Traynor and Joe Simpson represented the POA NEC as visitors. Messages of support were received from the POA branch at HMP Grendon.

This year’s Conference had an international feel with LGBT Trade Union guests from other countries including Germany, Poland and Belgium. This was due to the fact that this year, London was hosting World Pride and the TUC LGBT Committee had decided to reflect this in the speakers who had been invited, while many unions had also sent in motions on international issues. Speakers from Commonwealth countries had led a discussion at the World Pride International Conference on 4 July, sponsored by the TUC.

Maria Exall, chair of the TUC LGBT Committee opened the Conference, and welcomed delegates. Brendan Barber addressed the Conference, stating that this would be the last time he would address this Conference as TUC General Secretary. Brendan went on to say that in the 15 years since the TUC LGBT Conferences have been taking place: “Much has been done, but there is much still to be done. Huge difficulties remain, prejudice, discrimination and hate are still evident, and work must continue to combat this”. He went on to say that he was impressed in the way that this conference had led the way in dealing with LGBT issues globally.

Emergency motion

Motions debate began with Emergency Motion 3, World Pride 2012, moved by Prospect. The motion read:

“This Conference is dismayed at the proposed drastic curtailment of events planned for 2012 World Pride. We believe that this is a massive wasted opportunity for the promotion of LGBT equality in the UK and in other countries.

We call on the mayor of London and Westminster Council as the main agencies involved in the preparations for this year’s Pride to see reason and facilitate the Pride celebrations that were previously planned with the involvement and support of many LGBT community and voluntary organisation, LGBT Trade unionists, and hundreds of thousands of individual LGBT people and their friends and families. We reaffirm our support for an annual community-led free LGBT Pride event with a national focus in London.

We call on the TUC LGBT Committee to call a meeting for LGBT community organisation, LGBT activists and trade union representatives to discuss how to avoid such a fiasco in future years. This meeting to be called as soon as possible after 7 July”.

Concerns regarding this year’s pride event were evident in the debate of this motion, and the motion was supported unanimously.

Financial issues

Tony Hughes of the GMB Union, who, within the last 24 hours had been elected as Chair of London Pride, was invited to address the Conference regarding this year’s Pride arrangements. Tony informed the Conference that last year’s Pride had left a debt of £100,000, which had now been paid-off . However, due to the difficulties and debts from last year, contractors would not provide services unless they were paid up-front. Sponsorship had been secured, but the event needed to be scaled down, and timings altered.

Concern was expressed that the many bars and businesses, which stand to make huge profits from people attending Pride, do not make any contribution whatsoever to the Pride event.

News reports

The London Evening Standard reported on 5 July: “The boss of London’s annual Gay Pride celebration has quit after organisers axed key events at the last minute. Pride London Chairman Patrick Williams resigned after the event on Saturday, which attracts one million people, was drastically scaled back because of a cash crisis.” This is the reason Tony Hughes stood in at the eleventh hour.

The London Evening Standard further reported that: “Gay campaigner Peter Tatchell warned that it risked descending into mayhem, and called on City Hall to provide emergency funding. He claimed that the West End would become jammed as tens of thousands of revellers would be unaware of a police order to start the parade two hours early at 11am.”

Government attacks on the Equality Act and EHRC

Anne Ruzylo proposed Emergency Motion 2 on behalf of the TUC LGBT Committee: ‘Government attacks on the Equality Act and EHRC’. The Motion read: “In response to the Red Tape Challenge, the Government proposes removing from the Equality Act 2012:

1. Protection from repeated third party harassment
2. New powers for tribunals to make recommendations to employers, and
3. The statutory discrimination questionnaires which victims of discrimination have long relied upon to seek information from employers.

It will carry out a review of the public sector equality duty by April 2013, having already refused to implement the statutory Code of Practice and dilute the specific duties that support it. It will go ahead with plans to weaken the EHRC, removing its helpline function and grants programmes and cut its budget by 60 percent by 2014/15. It proposes to carry out another review of the equality body in autumn 2013, threatening more substantial reforms and possible transfer of its functions to other bodies.

Conference call upon the TUC to raise awareness of the impact these changes will have on access to justice and campaign to defend hard won legal protections that have only recently been extended to LGB&T individuals.

This motion was supported by many unions, and the feeling of concern was evident that this was a direct attack on long fought for LGB&T rights. During Conference, delegates have the opportunity to select a motion from the Conference to go to TUC Congress. Such was the feeling on the attack on LGB&T rights that this motion moved by Anne was selected as the motion from Conference to go forward to TUC Congress.

Michael Cashman MEP

On Friday afternoon, Michael Cashman MEP addressed Conference. Michael was a founder member of Stonewall, a group lobbying for LGB rights, and has a history in the trade union movement going back many years. During Michael’s speech he said: “We are living in increasingly more dangerous times since the 1930s, because in times of economic downturn, it’s the rights of ordinary men and women which are attacked. This ‘collision’ government has made a direct attack on human rights, which we must defend to the last inch, to the last millimetre.”

Michael referred to the current Tory led coalition government as a ‘collision government’, as he sees them as “an accident waiting to happen”.

Immigration

Michael went on to comment on immigration, and the history of this country as a refuge for people who are suffering atrocities in their home country at the hands of their own people, and highlighting that still in many countries being gay is punishable by death, stating that “Anybody that comes into this country should be welcomed. Discrimination isn’t new, it’s not gone away, and it isn’t going to go away, it just gets more refined and harder to detect”.

He finished with a quote from Shakespeare’s Thomas Moore: “If you give up someone’s rights, ultimately you give up your own”.

During the course of the Conference, elections took place for TUC LGBT Committee members, and we are pleased to announce that Anne Ruzylo from HMP Lewes, and a member of the POA Equality Advisory Committee, has once again been elected to serve another year onto the TUC LGBT Committee.

Congratulations Anne!

World Pride

Despite all the difficulties surrounding the event, World Pride took place in London on Saturday 7 July beginning with the Pride March. Along with the POA, delegates from several unions took part in the parade, which included: ASLEF, Equity, FBU, NUT, GMB, PCS, Prospect, Unite, plus many more.

A number of international trade unionists who had been guests at the TUC LGBT Conference also brought their solidarity to the parade.

The POA took the lead for all the unions, being only fourth in the entire parade behind the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who led. Members of the POA delegation were proud to march in the parade alongside the POA banner, as the crowds cheered and applauded along the way. We were pleased to be joined by Jackie Marshall from Stoke Heath, and Andrea Miller from Reading, who travelled to London to march with us in the parade.

The weather was kind to us and the rain held off , other than a very brief but heavy downpour as we passed Trafalgar Square. It took two hours for the POA to pass thorough the parade route, which took us along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, ending in Whitehall.

It took a further two hours for the remainder of walkers to complete the parade, and as the POA had effectively led the parade, we were able to watch the parade passing. A good time was had by all!

POA Equality Advisory Committee