SERTUC LGBT Network
The SERTUC LGBT Network has successfully raised its profile since its relaunch in 2005.
The SERTUC LGBT Network has –
- Organised five very successful LGBT History Month events bringing people into Congress House and making them aware of the work of both the Network, and SERTUC and trade unions more generally. The most recent of these was specifically to build for the TUC demonstration of 26 March 2011
- Has organised a vigil through central London and two receptions to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in December 2010 and 2011
- Had a regular presence at Palestine Solidarity Campaign pickets
- Built the TUC November 2011 event
- Built for 26 March 2011
- Produced materials in run-up to elections to raise awareness within the LGBTQ communities in London of why it is important that LGBTQ people use their vote
- Produced and distributed anti-fascist material aimed at the LGBTQ communities
- Have built links with local communities and events such as the Hackney Pride in 2010.
- Ensured SERTUC has supported UK Black Pride and Norwich & Norfolk Pride
- Taken the SERTUC LGBT Network banner on the London May Day Marches
- Our Secretary spoke at the London May Day rally in 2010
- Provided speakers at SERTUC seminars / events
- Run successful fringe meetings at the annual TUC LGBT Conferences
- Run the TUC stalls at Brighton & Hove Prides
- Supported other relevant community events
Ran a workshop at the Sex Workers Open University 2011 on migrant workers. Overall this work has significantly raised the profile of trade unions in general, and both the Network and SERTUC as a whole within LGBTQ communities within the SERTUC region. All of this has been done by lay activists involved in the Network and has involved a great deal of work from the individuals involved.
We think that the LGBT network is the most active of SERTUC’s sub-committees and that the level and scope of our activism can in many ways be said to be a “bench mark” for other SERTUC subcommittees.
The Network is seen as a vehicle for promoting LGBTQ rights within the trade union movement as well as for promoting trade unionism within the LGBTQ communities and this is reflected in the numbers of people who have come forward to be on the Steering Group. We are all Trade Unionists but we also reflect different aspects of the LGBTQ communities.
Yet at the 2012 AGM of the Network there was a view that the efforts of the Network are not wholly supported and appreciated by the SERTUC office.
The focus of discussion between the Network and the SERTUC office has been on the issue of Sex Work and that the Network has been pioneering in its support of workers in the Adult Entertainment Industry – our Sisters and Brothers in the GMB and EQUITY. The Network believes this problem raises and reflects wider issues.
The LGBTQI communities are made up of many strands, and this is more noticeable in larger cities such as London and Brighton. Our communities include workers who are office workers, nurses, sex workers, lawyers, artists, academics, engineers, private sector workers, and public sector workers, those who work in the voluntary sector and those who are unemployed. We include migrants, and members of many different black and minority communities as well as those who are not. We include people who are disabled and those who are not. We include people who identify as queer, as lesbian, as trans, as bisexual, as gay, as feminist – and sometimes as combinations of these. We include people who are monogamous and people who are polyamorous. We include people who practice sadomasochism. Many in our communities are Sex Positive. All very different but all part of our wider LGBTQI community.
The SERTUC LGBT Network believes that it is important that we aim to be inclusive of our many communities; therefore we make no distinction between what is valid and what is not in terms of the consensual sex lives people lead. his includes those from our communities that are involved in Sex Work, which involves a large percentage of workers identifying as LGBT or Queer.
Our communities are varied and the work the Network has been doing is to be inclusive and reflective of the variety and connect with those who may not necessarily automatically see trade unions as being on their side. This year’s LGBT History Month event heard from activists involved in the GLF of the 1960s and 1970s of how the British ‘Left’ treated them and excluded their struggle from the Labour Movement.
Some involved in the Network today were involved in the struggles of the 1980s and 1990s in getting the topic of LGBT rights on the agenda of the trade unions. It is only in recent history that Trade Unions have started to have LGBT structures and committees in their organisations as a result of our struggles But establishing structures does not in itself obliterate prejudice or end the need for dialogue – we live in a society which is heterosexist and therefore without an ongoing discussion those values will tend to dominate even within the trade unions..
The Network believe that all our many communities are valid and no one person is less a serious advocate for LGBTQ rights or has a lesser role in the trade union movement because they choose to live and express their sexuality in a certain way. Indeed the Network is proud to have a Sex Worker and internationally acclaimed Porn star as its Secretary.
The Network was disappointed to learn that the Regional Secretary referred to part of our work as “bourgeois libertarianism”. We do not believe that it is appropriate for someone outside the Network, and particularly not a senior officer of SERTUC to make a value judgement on what work the Network does in supporting different communities. We are saddened that the Regional Secretary used such language in a meeting with the GMB.
If the Network puts forward a project or view in support of the LGBTQ communities or part of we would expect SERTUC to be guided by that.
We are conscious that there is a distance between the Network and the Regional Secretary and believe the cause of this is a lack of understanding of the issues of our varied communities.
Although we respect the right for other trade unionists to have differing views on matters, we do not believe it is right for prejudicial, judgemental and offensive language to be used. The use of the term “bourgeois libertarianism” was inexcusable.
Even if is being used to describe only part of our work, it actually undermines the Network as a whole. Bourgeois or petit bourgeois are offensive terms which have often been used to attack the LGBTQ movement (and also sometimes the feminist movement) by those who suggest that our concerns are different from those of “real” (for which read usually white, male, able-bodied) workers. This fact coupled with the distance of relations as mentioned, puts into context what our Secretary said at the SERTUC AGM in April.
We wish to make clear that this is not a complaint or an allegation but an expression of concern.
To move forward we would suggest the following –
- Although not a complaint we believe in spirit to develop better working relations we ask that the Regional Secretary reflects on her use of the term “bourgeois libertarianism” and recognises and understands why the comment caused offence. We respect that the Regional Secretary has a different view on Sex Work but we do not believe it excuses her choice of words.
- That the SERTUC LGBT Network hosts an open session for all involved in SERTUC to meet the Network and hear what the issues are for our communities and why the Network does the work it does.
- That perhaps SERTUC may want to make recognition of the valuable work the activists in the Network have done.
Terry Conway (UNISON)
SERTUC LGBT Network Co-Chair
Lesley Woodburn (UNITE)
SERTUC LGBT Network Co-Chair
Thierry Schaffauser (GMB)
SERTUC LGBT Network Secretary
Anton Johnson (UNITE / GLATUC)
SERTUC EC member – LGBT seat