TUC Equality Audit 2018

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
11 Sep 2018
Section B - Union rules
TUC rules require unions to show a clear commitment to equality for all and to eliminate all forms of harassment and discrimination within their own union structures and through all activities.

In total, 78 per cent of members of unions responding to the audit are covered by the model TUC equality clause. Ninety-eight per cent of members responding to the audit are covered by rules or procedures concerning discrimination or harassment.

TUC model equality clause

The objects of the union shall include:

(a) The promotion of equality for all including through:
(i) collective bargaining, publicity material and campaigning, representation, union organisation and structures, education and training, organising and recruitment, the provision of all other services and benefits and all other activities
(ii) the union’s own employment practices.

(b) To oppose actively all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age or other status or personal characteristic.


Three-quarters of the unions responding to the audit (74 per cent) have adopted the TUC model equality clause – the same proportion as in 2014. Small unions are slightly more  likely to have adopted the clause than other unions; 80 per cent have done so compared with 67 per cent of both large and medium unions. Overall, 78 per cent of members of unions responding to the audit are covered by the clause.

The four large unions8 with such a clause are the GMB, NASUWT, UNISON and Unite. Eight medium unions have adopted the clause, namely the CSP, Equity, FBU, NUJ, NUT (ATL section), PCS, RMT and UCU. And 16 small unions have adopted it: Accord, Advance, AEP, ASLEF, BSU, Napo, NARS, Nautilus, NGSU, PFA, SCP, SOR, TSSA, UCAC, URTU
and WGGB.

Seventy-one per cent of unions responding to the audit have other national rules on equality, including all the large unions, 67 per cent of medium-sized unions and 65 per cent of small unions. Overall, 94 per cent of members of unions responding to the audit are covered by such rules.

In addition, the CSP, which has no rulebook, has an equal opportunities statement and a code of professional values and behaviour that includes statements on respect and non-
discriminatory behaviour. The SCP has equality and diversity statements embedded within its code of conduct and staff policies.

Half of the unions responding to the audit have a rule related to membership of far-right or racist political parties. The large unions are much more likely to have such a rule than the smaller and medium-size unions. Eighty-three per cent of all members of unions responding to the audit are covered by such rules.

The law on unions and members of far- right parties

In February 2007, the European Court  of Human Rights held that UK law, which prevented ASLEF from expelling a member of the British National Party (BNP), violated the union’s right to freedom of association. The Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 was subsequently amended to allow a union to expel a member of a political party if membership of that party is contrary to a rule or an objective of the trade union.


The unions with rules in this area include: five large unions (83 per cent) – GMB, NASUWT, NEU (NUT section), UNISON and Unite; six medium unions (50 per cent) – CWU, FBU, NEU (ATL section), NUJ, PCS and UCU; and eight small unions (40 per cent) – Accord, AFA-CWA, ASLEF, BDA, Napo, Nautilus, PFA and TSSA.

Other unions said their rules would indirectly prohibit such activity, which would be likely to contravene the aims and objectives of the union and therefore could lead to disciplinary proceedings and possible expulsion.

Accord’s biennial delegate conference in April 2018 agreed a new rule that would allow a membership application to be rejected because of misconduct or being a member of an organisation with objectives against the union’s (such as far-right groups).

Discrimination and harassment rules and procedures

Unions promote equal rights for all members, staff and activists. A new section that has been included in the Audit for 2018 is a question on union rules and procedures covering allegations of discrimination or harassment made against its lay activists, officers and full-time officials. (In some cases these overlap with union-as-employer policies designed to protect union staff, which are covered on p26.)

Overall, 31 of the unions responding (82 per cent) said they had such rules or procedures. All the large unions had such rules, as well  as 10 (83 per cent) of the medium unions responding to the audit and 15 (75 per cent)
of the small unions. A very high proportion (98 per cent) of the members of unions responding to the audit are covered by rules or procedures concerning discrimination or harassment allegations of this sort.
 

UNISON’s national delegate conference 2017 approved a new regulation for dealing with misconduct by members in relation to the union’s employees. It gives a non-exhaustive definition of misconduct as:

  • verbal or physical abuse
  • disrespectful, threatening or intimidating behaviour
  • conduct which may expose a member of staff to ridicule, embarrassment or contempt
  • conduct which violates the dignity of the member of staff concerned
  • bullying or harassment
  • discrimination (which includes discrimination, harassment or victimisation on grounds of race, gender, marital status or civil partnership, sexuality, gender identity, disability, age, creed or social class, or any other discriminatory conduct).

If, after investigation, the allegation is found to be proven, there are a range of penalties ranging from censure to expulsion from the union.


If, after investigation, the allegation is found to be proven, there are a range of penalties ranging from censure to expulsion from the union.