TRADE unionists took a stand against homophobic slurs yesterday as a study showed how workplace harassment was still commonplace for LGBT workers in Britain.
Delegates to the TUC LGBT conference heard how research by Manchester and Plymouth universities found that one in three bisexual people were still regularly bullied at work.
Opening this year’s event, TUC assistant general secretary Paul Nowak said: “We know that LGBT workers are two and a half times more likely to face workplace bullying and discrimination and that hate crime remains a huge problem.”
First-time Unison delegate Jo Beill told conference about her own daunting experience, coming out as bisexual and being the victim of persistent sexual pestering from a male colleague.
“Bullying and harassment is still endemic in workplaces,” she said.
The conference had the opportunity to vote on two motions around the impact of prejudiced language and lack of understanding of homophobic behaviour in public spaces.
Delegates from teachers’ unions spoke at length on the consequences using the word “gay” as a derogatory term in schools.
Association of Teachers and Lecturers delegate Vincent Usher added how “seemingly harmless ignorance and well-meaning, narrow-minded attitudes” can also often cause much damage.
Comparing homosexuality to a traumatic upbringing, for example, was helping spread misunderstandings about being gay, said Mr Usher who was asked to mentor a child with a violent family history because they had “much in common.”
Mr Usher’s family, in comparison, had always been supportive of his life choices and sexuality.
National Union of Teachers representatives also commented on he need for further staff training.
One of the union’s first time speakers Matt Evans told of how his presentation on gay rights was cancelled by the school’s headteacher after someone complained Mr Evans was trying to “convert students.”
Recounting how his story had a happy ending, Mr Evans said that once he confronted school management with the Equal Rights Act he conducted sessions with both staff and students.
But “prejudice and ignorance continue to scar the lives of far too many people,” Mr Nowak told conference.
The odds on fighting back against bigotry have been shortened by the government’s incessant cuts to legal aid and changes to employment tribunal fees.
“Thousands of LGBT workers are having to suffer in silence, priced out of justice,” he concluded.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.