WE are meeting just after a general election with an emboldened Conservative government which, together with its big business backers, is determined to attack workers’ organisations.
The anti-union laws it has announced will massively limit our right to take effective industrial action, including the right to strike itself, and silence workers’ political voice through an “opt-in” process for union political funding.
There is an ideological war going on to undermine decent workplace terms and conditions and delegitimise workers’ organisations and their representatives.
On the diversity front, a battle is being waged concerning who truly defends the interests of LGBT workers. “Pink-friendly” corporations say to their LGBT workers: “Trust us, we can look after you — you don’t need trade unions. We are in the Stonewall top 100 employers and, see, we even sponsor Pride.”
But the reality in our workplaces is very different and this offensive of the pink capitalists will not succeed. As LGBT workers we demand an end to bullying and discrimination and an acceptance of us in all our diversity — gay, bi, lesbian, trans. We know there is a long way to go, for LGBT workers are more than twice as likely to be bullied as straight workers, discrimination overt or covert is still rife and we are far from having workplaces that are safe and welcoming.
There is ongoing discrimination on survivor pension benefits, and on religious exemptions to equality legislation for LGBT people.
We demand an end to the Conservatives’ cuts in public services and repressive social policies such as further draconian welfare reforms affecting housing and provision of mental health services to vulnerable LGBT people.
We oppose their divisive policies, which threaten to stoke up intolerance and fear which will damage the social solidarity necessary to combat persisting homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in society.
We believe the representation of us as LGBT people in the media and in the entertainments industry is limited, patronising and tokenistic.
We see the Tory plans for more free schools and academies as undermining the advance of inclusive education and the challenging of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools and colleges.
We believe that the British government should promote LGBT rights worldwide. We are concerned that the tightening of border controls will affect LGBT asylum-seekers and encourage xenophobia and nationalism.
The narrowing of political debate in the run-up to and aftermath of the general election is having a corrosive effect on equality politics.
The Tories have always wanted to depoliticise the LGBT agenda and Pride because of their homophobic and transphobic record.
True LGBT freedom is at odds with the monopoly of corporate interests and the hegemony of pro-capitalist thought.
Barclays, Starbucks and Citibank cannot defend equality or the positive change we need to eliminate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at work. Neither can campaigning groups in hoc to such corporate interests.
We need a democratic working-class LGBT politics to take forward the gains made in LGBT civil rights over the past few decades and make them real. We need a progressive trade union movement where the demands of LGBT workers are heard loud and clear.
It is a given for socialists that capitalist interests in Britain want to monopolise political debate and sideline alternative views, especially ones based on working-class people experience in all our diverse sexuality.
It is in this context that we have to view the recent behaviour of the Pride in London board. The priority they have given in this year’s march to corporate sponsors rather than the Pride heroes from Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners and the LGBT trade unionists is unfortunate. But this will not spoil our day.
We invite all trade unionists to come and join us in the LGBT trade union section of the parade and march proudly behind Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. It is solidarity that delivered our rights and it is solidarity that will deliver our liberation.
Pink capitalists have the money and the power. Their offensive is a challenge to us in the trade union movement. We need solidarity between LGBT and straight workers so they cannot divide and rule. Unity is strength.
Maria Exall is a member of the CWU and chair of the TUC LGBT Committee.