The President : We now move to Composite Motion 17. The General Council support the composite motion.
Mr Joe Mann (National League of the Blind and Disabled) moved the following composite motion:
(Insert Composite Motion 17)
He said: Moving Composite Motion 17 on behalf of every disabled person in the country and those who may join our ranks in the future, and that could mean anyone in this hall.
Coming to this rostrum as previous General Secretaries and Presidents of the National League have done every year for the 95 years we have been affiliated to the TUC, once more arguing for full civil rights and an end to discrimination for all disabled people. We are making progress in that direction. But, first, I want from the bottom of my heart to extend a sincere thank you to every union here for the unstinting support you have given to the National League in the last year. Thanks to your help we have not lost a single disabled person's job and we have been able to launch, maintain and win campaigns in our factories from Swansea to Bradford to Aberdeen. We could not have achieved that without you.
But do not go away. I have more to ask of you before I end this speech. The civil rights and employment campaigns have made significant progress. The election of a Labour Government was desperately needed for the disabled as the passage of time has confirmed that the Tories flagship, the Disability Discrimination Act -- piloted through Parliament, do not forget, by one William Hague --is a woefully inadequate and shabby attempt to address the needs of the disabled, with a definition of disability that is medical, negative and excludes many impairments; with employment measures covering only 4 per cent of businesses; with the introduction of the disgraceful concept of justifiable discrimination; and, most importantly, no Commission to enforce the legislation.
The new Government made the most significant of its moves forward in placing disability issues in the context of employment and education. That is the right place. We also welcome the decisions taken at the IGC in Amsterdam to include a new article in the Treaty countering discrimination against disabled people. The changes to access to work, and in particular the , 195 million earmarked in the budget for employment and training of disabled people, are all steps forward achieved in a very short time and are very welcome.
However, there are concerns. Included in the changes to access to work is an obligation for employers to contribute, which may make some employers less likely to employ disabled people. Also, we are now hearing that a single Human Rights Commission is being considered to include disability with race and gender issues. That was the Liberal Democrats policy prior to the election, and we campaigned alongside Labour against that, arguing Labour's policy of a properly funded and powerful Disability Rights Commission to oversee the introduction of full civil rights legislation. That was Labour's promise but we are concerned that weighed down with other priorities this commitment has not yet been met.
We therefore thank Roger Berry for introducing a Private Members Bill calling for the introduction of such a Commission. But, like him, we hope the Bill will not be necessary. It is vital that the trade union perspective is in the forefront of this debate which is so often dominated by the powerful and wealthy charities. The Commission must be made up of at least 75 per cent disabled people, and trades unionists must be included. That is up to all of us.
I said I would be asking for more from you. It is critically important that you all continue to put more and more resources into supporting the disability groups that are flourishing within your own unions; that you create a strategy actively to recruit disabled people into your unions and to ensure that those members are encouraged to join the Trade Union Disability Alliance, TUDA, as the coordinating body for disabled trade unionists; and to become active in that organisation. It is the only way we will have our collective voice heard and our concerns addressed.
If we get our act together we really do have a chance here of achieving full civil rights within the life of this administration. Who knows, we may reach the new millennium and at last proudly and with wonder be able to turn to each other and say that irrespective of our colour, gender, sexuality, age or disability we are at last all equal and have finally defeated the scourge of discrimination once and for all. That is our dream.
Please support the composite, and move us towards that goal.
The motion was formally seconded .
Ms Sheila Blair (UNISON): Historically Tory Governments have implemented policies which have concentrated solely on persuasion in the raising of disability awareness. These policies, including the two tick system, have failed. Lord Lester, a prominent civil liberties lawyer, described the DDA as riddled with big, slippery and elusive exclusions, making it so full of holes more likened to a colander than a binding code. It also allows for justifiable discrimination. How or why if it is not possible to justify discrimination under the sex or race discrimination laws should we as disabled people be justifiably discriminated against? This law must be repealed and replaced with enforceable legislation as in Roger Berry's Civil Rights Private Members Bill.
The , 195 million which has been promised by Harriet Harman to enable people with health problems and disabilities to get back to work is welcomed by us. However, many disabled people are deeply concerned that the compulsion element of the package will put disabled people again at a disadvantage. What if employers' prejudice on accessible training means they are unable to take up the options on offer? Will they be penalised?
A new programme of support, training and employment needs to be developed in conjunction with disabled people's organisations and trade unions to assess the impact of new schemes on disabled people in the labour market. The assessment criteria for employment and training programmes must recognise the discrimination, and the physical and attitudinal barriers we face, rather than focusing on our medical impairments. Programmes will only stand a real chance of success if the government keeps its promise ‑‑ the promise it made to us at the Labour Party Conference in 1996 -- to introduce new legislation.
Let us support our disabled people regarding the Disability Forums. We have to ensure that they are reflective of trade union representation. I have been told that jobs on all these Commissions go out to advertisement, so they cannot be actually manipulated by the trades unions. But what you can do is that you can support and encourage your disabled members to apply for those jobs. Let us put an end to this consultation, let us join together in partnership and get our government to deliver their promises. Let us, as the slogan of this week has said, be partners in progress and have the right to be heard. I support.
* The composite motion was CARRIED.
TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference
The President : This is the very last resolution on the Agenda, the TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference. The General Council oppose the motion and I will call on Donna Covey during the debate to explain the General Council's position. As this is a contested motion, obviously we will need it to be seconded in the normal manner, and as I have indicated I will call the General Council's spokesperson in as well as other speakers.
Mr Frederick Pyne (British Actors Equity Association) moved the following motion:
(Insert Motion 93)
He said: This is a very simple motion, and deliberately so. We are extremely pleased to be seconded by UNISON.
The motion asks you to move forwards to a logical outcome of how the trade union Movement and society have moved in recent years. The old days of the trade union Movement and society, being dominated by the white heterosexual male, are thankfully long gone. Society has moved on; the trade union Movement has moved on. We now have a Women's TUC Conference because we accept that women in the workplace have their very own special problems that only they can fully understand and seek to resolve. Similarly, we have a Black Workers' Conference because we accept that only those workers can fully appreciate and seek to resolve their problems. We must surely now admit that lesbians and gay men have problems that only they can fully understand and seek to resolve.
I know it can be argued that it is relatively easy for Equity to move this motion because, in the entertainment world, there is greater understanding and tolerance than might be the case in other areas of work. This may well be true. But sometimes it can be more difficult for our members than for other workers. I am thinking of times when performers are threatened with "outing" headlines by the not so tolerant sections of the press at the very moment when that could be very damaging to their career or future prospects for work. It does happen. Believe you me, if you have ever been harassed by some of the seedier sections of the press you will know it ain't a bunch of fun!
I would like you to put that argument, that it is easier for Equity to put this motion to you, completely out of your minds. The special problems that lesbians and gay men face we face regardless of whether we are working alongside a more or less tolerant work force. In fact, I am sure it is true to say that, in many areas of work, problems become more difficult precisely because of a less tolerant attitude at work. Many of these problems we are aware of: bullying at work; being passed over for promotion; even not getting the job in the first place, simply because of one's sexuality.
There are never the less problems faced by lesbians and gay men. They include all kinds of discrimination in areas such as pension rights, tenancy rights, inheritance for same sex partners, and many others where they need the support of their union, where they need the leadership of their union, and where that leadership can be crucial in breaking down prejudice and outmoded attitudes against a minority. We are not asking for members or unions who have no wish to be involved in this Conference to be forced to attend this Conference. We are not asking for any member to identify his or her sexuality against their will. We are not asking that the delegates or officials should be exclusively gay or lesbian. We are asking for a conference to be treated equally with other specialist conferences in that they can be motion based. Workshops are fine, but the conference needs to take decisions, and to do that they need to pass motions to influence policy.
Mr President, you spoke very movingly on Monday of the fear and demoralisation in the workplace in the last eighteen years. I am sure I do not have to tell you, and the rest of Congress, that there are many of our members who have known fear and demoralisation for far longer than that. The 1997 workshop based conference made it abundantly clear that we wanted equality of treatment from the Council in order that we could move forwards to equality of treatment in all areas of our working lives.
We at Equity believe that by putting this motion we are offering leadership to Congress. We now look to leadership from you comrades, and from you General Council, to help all of us to move towards a fairer and more equal workplace, and thereby to a fairer and more equal society. Please support this motion.
Ms Jackie Lewis (UNISON) seconding Motion 93 said: We have just heard some of the reasons why there needs to be a TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference and why it needs to contribute to developing the work of the TUC and affiliates on lesbian and gay equality.
UNISON welcomes the commitment to holding an annual conference. The question in front of Congress is: what kind of conference? UNISON believes strongly that there is a clear need for the conference to allow the lesbian and gay voice to be articulated in the trade union Movement and to be able to influence and guide TUC policy. For that, the conference must be able to express a view, to put forward policy proposals, to make recommendations. The only credible way for that to happen is for the conference to be able to consider motions. At present it cannot.
There have, for example, been very similar debates at the last two conferences about the structure and format of the conference. There are, of course, some different views. But the conference itself cannot resolve these issues because the conference is not able to make decisions of any kind. This cannot just continue indefinitely. UNISON recognises there are concerns about not all affiliates having structures or networks for lesbian and gay members, about how delegates will be appointed and motions determined.
We believe that whilst the TUC needs to encourage all affiliates to set up their own networks, each union must adopt a structure that suits its own circumstances. There must be considerable flexibility at this stage about the appointment of delegates to ensure that those unions which do not yet have networks are not excluded, and indeed are encouraged to participate. It is also crucial that the arrangements do not require people to come out. Lesbian and gay members of UNISON and the other unions supporting this motion are totally familiar with, and sensitive to, such concerns.
Congress, the motion does not lay down a prescription for the appointment and accountability of delegates. That would be a matter for each affiliate.
The General Council is opposing the motion. We do not know exactly why. UNISON believes that giving the conference a proper status will encourage more unions to affiliate, and the fact that some unions have not sent delegates should not prevent the TUC from taking a lead and beginning to move forward.
We hope that no one will argue that the conference should not be motion based because of a lack of resources. Congress, either the TUC is committed to lesbian and gay equality or it is not. The TUC cannot say yes, we support equality but we cannot do anything at the moment, come back in a couple of years. That is not equality and it is certainly not respect.
Congress, this motion is about the TUC establishing a conference which can speak with authority on lesbian and gay issues, about moving away from a talking shop, about showing to lesbian and gay members and those that are there to be recruited that there is a real home for us in the trade union Movement, that we are at last included in the TUC's democratic structure.
It is fine and good to talk about equality but the TUC also needs to take action. Start with this small step. Support this motion.
Ms Sharon Allen (Manufacturing Science Finance): Rising in support of Motion 93.
With over 50,000 blue collar workers, MSF do not support outing; we do not condone it. However, we do support the rights of gays and lesbians to self‑determination, the rights to set their own agendas, and we afford them the same equal opportunities and access to our democratic machinery that we do to our women members, black members and disabled members.
MSF's Lesbian and Gay Men's Network (LAGIM) decided this year to formalise their structures, and take their place amongst the other Equal Opportunity Committees. This decision was a natural progression for LAGIM members to raise their profile and allow them greater opportunities for self‑determination. Despite their decision they have also retained the informal structures that allow members who are unwilling to be identified access to LAGIM and the decision-making processes in the knowledge of full confidentiality.
Whilst we understand the concern of the General Council about their fear of disenfranchising gays and lesbians who are unable to come out, we are unable to understand how, by denying delegates at the TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference the chance to make their own policies by being motion based, this progresses the needs of gay men and lesbians in the labour Movement. Further, we believe that the controversy surrounding this issue and the General Council's position could lead to confusion, and allow homophobics to reinforce the prejudices that the TUC are divided on on the issues surrounding gay equality.
MSF supports Motion 93 and urges Congress to do the same. We do not believe a motion based conference will force gay men and lesbians into an untenable position. We believe it will strengthen their voices and raise the issues important to them. Denying gay men and lesbians the same access to a motion based Conference in line with the Women's Conference and the TUC Black Workers Conference is patronising and it is discriminatory. Surely we can learn from our previous battles for motion based conferences by our other equal opportunities areas. Please let us not put our gay men and lesbian members through years of jumping through hoops before we accede to their demands. Please support this motion.
Ms Margaret Bayley (Amalgamated Engineering Electrical Union): As trades unionists we have a primary responsibility to ensure the particular needs of those we represent. But we have a duty also to make certain the ways in which those needs are met are both the most effective and truly reflective of our members. This is why the AEEU joins with others in opposing the proposal for a resolution based Lesbian and Gay Conference.
It is a question of the best way of making sure we hear the voices of lesbian and gay members, of listening and responding to their concerns, of addressing the obstacles they face in a constructive and purposeful setting. We owe it all to our members to provide the best possible structures in which they can feel confident, be it on the grounds of race, gender, disability or sexuality.
The AEEU has no truck with those who discriminate and divide. Our Equal Opportunities Committee ensures our principles of equality and justice are not forgotten in the workplace. We will not allow lesbian and gay members to be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality. Membership driven, the AEEU stands by all its members, fighting discrimination in all its forms. So we welcome and support wholeheartedly the right of the gay/lesbian trades unionists to a full and effective representation, taking into account the pernicious problems they face, but I must ask this question. Is the use of a resolution based conference the most effective way of fighting on their behalf? Does a series of resolutions really do justice to the full range of complex difficulties over which our gay and lesbian colleagues have to climb?
I can tell you, if discrimination is to be tackled we must adopt a more comprehensive approach. We must have the confidence to aim higher; we must have the confidence to adopt new methods of progressing policies against discrimination. Workshops, seminars, courses and expert contributions all have their place in a framework identified by members and delegates. That is the way to move forward: measures to protect and further the interests of the lesbian employees who are our members.
While reiterating our support for tackling discrimination I believe that the trade union Movement must concentrate its energy and resources on sustaining dynamic trades unions. Our members expect nothing less, and I believe they deserve nothing less. Congress, the AEEU supports in spirit this motion, and we are committed to the intentions of fighting discrimination, but Congress must ask itself whether this is an efficient way to meet their desired ends.
The AEEU urge you to oppose this resolution.
Mr Nick Roe (Independent Union of Halifax Staff): Speaking in support of Motion 93 for the Annual Lesbian and Gay Conference to be motion based, similar to the Women's and Black Workers' Conference.
In debating the format of this event at two consultative meetings, reviewing the successes and failures of previous conferences, it is a sad reflection that the most notable and memorable issue from the previous year's assembly was that there was no meat on the menu at lunch time. The plea to balance the dietary requirements between vegetarians and meat eaters was made lightheartedly but was very poignant as to where we as a Movement stand on lesbian and gay issues, and the discrimination that lesbians and gay men face.
The Conference of 1997 produced two clear messages: first, more work was needed to encourage affiliates to participate in providing commitment and involvement to what are equality issues. For those unions that fail to be involved or represented, it could be presumed that equality for this group of workers is unimportant, or maybe even lesbians and gays are not present within their own organisation. I think not, on either count. The second message that dominated discussion and debate throughout the day was the overwhelming feeling that a motion based conference should be the order of the day. The use of the word "conference" is mis‑ representative of the current format. "Seminar" or "talking shop" would better describe the event.
We must now though go forward, develop a platform that suits and fits the need for change, to modernise. It is disappointing that sexual orientation is not mentioned in the New Unionism document, though we are assured we are included. Just "not mentioned". It is time to acknowledge that such a meeting, based solely on workshops, presentations and discussions is going nowhere. In fact, if all we are expected to do is network and support we might as well hold a tea party.
It has led to a feeling of intense frustration amongst delegates who have a valuable contribution to make but are denied the vehicle to translate this to a wider audience amongst colleagues within the trade union Movement, and affects the need for education, innovation and change. What is needed is a conference that will formulate motions, enjoy the challenge of informed debate and draw together all unions from all areas of the working spectrum reflecting their own members' views and help develop their own structures and policies, like my own union.
As a recent affiliate we want our voice to be heard by the General Council and be given the opportunity to influence essential equality issues through the TUC. Please, I beg you, support Motion 93.
Ms Peggy Blyth (GMB): Opposing Motion 93. I come to this rostrum with extensive experience, based on the help and support I gave a close family member during a very stressful time when he chose to inform people that he was gay. This experience, and the support that the GMB gives its activists, aided me confidently to represent not only my relative but lesbian and gay GMB/Apex members.
I address you today to oppose this motion on their behalf. The concerns that they and other members have expressed through consultation, using our regional lesbian and gay structure, are as follows. Our lesbian and gay members, and also our heterosexual members, welcome the opportunity the TUC Conference provides to share and learn about the issues of concern to our lesbian and gay members. Congress, many of our lesbian and gay members choose not to come out within their workplace, which is their right. The open nature of the conference allows a larger number of our members to take part in a conference which is both secure and comfortable, where they still retain their own choice of their sexuality remaining private.
For the GMB a formal motion based conference would change the whole of the atmosphere. It would also place a restrictive ceiling on our level of representation, and it would create pressure for the majority of the delegation to be lesbian and gay. This in turn would mean the GMB having to ask our members about their sexuality, our members who work in factories, in shipyards, in schools. It is never easy to come out at work but coming out in a shipyard, a factory or a school is harder than doing so in the professions or the creative world.
Congress, the TUC Lesbian and Gay Conference works, and our gay and lesbian members tell us so. If it is not broken, why fix it. Our members do want to see the TUC carry out more work on lesbian and gay issues. What they do not want is to do this within the straightjacket of a motions based conference. Therefore, I urge you to oppose.
Mr Tony Young (Communication Workers Union): Supporting Motion 93.
The CWU, and especially the CWU Lesbian and Gay Advisory Committee, fully support this motion. Just as a matter of interest, for the last speaker's benefit, I have a brother who is gay but that is not the reason why I come to the rostrum to support this motion.
We acknowledge that some unions have no structures specifically for lesbian and gay members, but that does not prevent members from selecting or mandating delegates or submitting motions. For many years trades unions did not have structures for women members but this was not used as an argument against a motions based Women's Conference. On the contrary, it became a reason, almost an imperative, for the Women's Conference.
Those who are represented at the Lesbian and Gay Conference cover a wide span of the TUC membership, but we should be encouraging affiliates who are not represented to become involved rather than use their lack of involvement as an argument for not recognising the wishes of those who have responded to the calling of an Annual Conference. The TUC does need to give a commitment in spirit and in kind to the lesbian and gay workers' movement. The TUC must be seen to be in the forefront of the equal rights agenda.
There is an internal issue of fairness and equality addressed by this motion. Both the Women's and Black Workers' Conferences allow motions to be debated. There are many in the lesbian and gay community who believe they are being discriminated against by being denied the same facility. Whether you believe this is a perception or a reality does not really matter. The concern has to be dealt with, and Motion 93 offers the way forward.
Many lesbian and gay activists feel they are not allowed to express their views by decision but only through a process of taking views, filtering and interpreting them. Many feel that within the labour Movement they are denied the same level of empowerment as women and black workers. Yes, the Women's Conference is moving away from a purely motions based structure to allow for more open, in‑depth debate on certain issues. This motion does not prevent an amalgam of motions and discussion groups, but defeating this motion will in effect prescribe motions as a procedure available to the lesbian and gay workers.
The General Council makes it clear that the various discussions, consultations and meetings have not resulted in a consensus or a decision on this issue so it is right and proper that Congress makes a decision. All my union is asking is that in making your decision you support Motion 93 and give lesbian and gay workers the same representational rights as the Women's and Black Workers' Conferences.
Ms Maureen Twomey (General Council): I will start by saying to the mover and supporting speakers on this motion that lesbian and gay members are right to insist that their voices are heard in the TUC. You are right to stand up to, and campaign against, the deep, deep prejudice you experience in our society. You have our total support. The difference between us and, indeed, affiliates, is about the best way forward. It is a difference about structures, not about principles. Today's debate shows the depth and strength of feeling on both sides of the argument. A TUC consultation last year showed equally strong divisions that, in our view, would doom a motions‑based Conference at this stage to marginal status. As speakers have said, the TUC already holds an annual Lesbian and Gay Conference. We remain totally committed to that Conference. More to the point, we want it to grow with more members and a wider range of unions taking part.
The reality this year was very stark. Only 25 unions, that is less than one in three affiliates, attended the Conference. Only 21 unions, less than one in three of the unions in this hall, bothered to reply to the consultation. Only 19, that is down to one in four unions, attended the consultation meeting. I want to take the opportunity today to plead with affiliates and say that if you support lesbian and gay rights, the way for you to show it is not by voting for this motion today but by putting your money and your members where your principles are and sending delegates to next year's Conference. With more affiliates involved, and more lesbian and gay members represented, that can form the basis for decisions about the way forward.
A formal structure for the Conference would mean official delegates. It would mean accountability within affiliates and, for many lesbian and gay members, it would mean coming out at work and in the union because parallels with the Women's Conference and the Black Workers' Conference mean that affiliates would be advised that most delegates should be lesbians and gay men. To argue that that would not be the case negates the powerfully put argument during the debate that lesbian and gay members should make their own policies.
To conclude, the TUC General Council remains committed to equality for all lesbians and gay men. On behalf of the General Council, I want no one in this hall to doubt that. Our opposition quite simply is to a motions‑based Conference. It may not be a popular position but it is an honest one based on our experience and discussions with affiliates. I ask you to respect the honesty of our position and oppose the motion.
Mr Frederick Pyne (British Actors Equity Association) replying to the motion said: What we have heard in opposing this motion seems to be summed up in two or three words; structures, resources, coming out and the number of people who turn up at other meetings.
First of all, I will address structures. When the Labour Movement and Labour Party started, and they tried to improve the dreadful conditions and lives of working people in this country, I hope to God they did not say, "Just a minute, before we can do anything at all, we have to think about our structures"! I hope they had the ideas and courage, and I know they did, to think, "Let us put equality first and think about structures afterwards". Do not hide behind a lack of structures. Encourage unions to set up structures. Democracy never comes cheap. Of course we will need a few extra pounds to run a motions‑based Conference. We had a very good parallel in this hall earlier this week. We voted overwhelmingly for devolution in Scotland and Wales. Not one hand went up and said, "What about the resources that might be needed". We voted for it because we believed it to be right. That is what I want you to do today, follow your own example and vote for something you believe to be right.
With regards to coming out, I do not think people have read the motion. I do not think the opposition has actually read this motion. There is nothing on this motion that says anybody has to come out, nothing at all. In any case, unions can set up their structures, either formally or informally, in order to be able to participate in a Conference of the kind we are talking about.
Honesty; we do respect your honesty on the General Council, of course we do, but it is very easy to be honest to the nth degree and wrong.
Work for lesbians and gays by the TUC; of course, but if you read the General Report on page 61, you will find that most of that report is entirely about the workshop‑based Conference of 1997. We want more than that. We want to move on from that. Please pick up the piece of paper that was left on all your desks during lunchtime. It is called "The Right to be Heard". That is what we are asking for. Please support the most disadvantaged groups in our Movement by giving them the chance to help themselves, and support motion 93.
* The motion was CARRIED.
The President: I would like to announce the winners of the Thomas Cook holiday vouchers donated by Hamilton Direct Bank for completing our delegates' questionnaire. The first prize of , 250 worth of vouchers goes to John Thropp of the GMB. The second prize of , 50 worth of vouchers goes to Ron Greig of UNISON. Could they please go to the TUC stand before the end of the day to collect their prizes.
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