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A Letter from Unite on the cartoon that appeared in the Morning Star

WE ARE writing on behalf of Unite to condemn in the strongest terms the printing of a deeply discriminatory, offensive, transphobic, sexist, and divisive cartoon in the Morning Star. 

Our members feel betrayed and let down, particularly given our long-standing relationship with the Morning Star, as the only daily paper actively supporting the struggles of trade unions and working people. 

Our trans members suffer daily discrimination and pressure as working people and as trade unionists — it is abhorrent that the Morning Star has added to this in such a disgraceful and unacceptable way. 

We welcome the editorial that was printed in the morning star on Friday February 28, setting out a clear commitment to put in place an independent inquiry.

We do welcome the recognition that more than an apology is needed. The steps being taken to identify how this could have happened are essential. However, Unite and Unite’s LGBT+ members in particular need to be assured that any commitment we make to assisting the Morning Star in this process is genuinely respected and will ensure that this can never happen again.

Jenny Douglas Executive Council LGBT+ representative
Phil Jones Chair National LGBT+ Committee
Jane Stewart Executive Council Women’s representative and Chair National Women’s Committee
Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary Equalities
Siobhan Endean, Harish Patel National Equalities Officers
Tony Burke Assistant General Secretary and TU Coordinator People’s Printing Society

Below is the full text of the Unite Executive Statement (#3) on Gender Identity, agreed at Unite Policy Conference 2018 

UNITE is firmly committed to equality for all, and the members of our union are a strong representation of the diversity within our communities. Equal and fair treatment both at work and in society is a key priority for our union, and we make it clear that we all have a duty to challenge discrimination, harassment and bullying whenever possible. Unite acts on behalf of its members and bargains with employers to achieve greater equality within the workplace. 

A key objective of the union is: 
“To promote equality and fairness for all, including actively opposing prejudice and discrimination on grounds of gender, ethnic origin, religion, class, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, caring responsibilities; and to pursue equal pay for work of equal value.”

We oppose the current government’s agenda of division, greed, prejudice and inequality. We need investment in jobs, in real opportunities, not racist “vans of hate” and attacks on the Equality Act.

Youth unemployment, women’s poverty, pregnancy discrimination, hate crime, disabled workers’ access, lack of opportunities for black workers, workplace bullying and harassment, cuts to support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people, poverty in retirement — all need action now. 

We oppose and challenge those employers who refuse to deal with discrimination and to eradicate barriers to equality and fair pay. And we continue to call for statutory rights for union equality representatives - who make a real difference in the workplace. 

Unite is committed to the empowerment of all working people and in tackling under representation and discrimination against our members. Unite believes that in order to tackle discrimination, it is essential to ensure those who experience that discrimination are at the forefront of our campaigns and their voices are heard.  

Unite takes positive action through minimum proportional representation of women and black and Asian ethnic minority members on all constitutional committees, equality monitoring of our membership and established constitutional committees and conferences to represent and empower the interests of our Women, Black and Asian Ethnic Minority, Disabled and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans members. 

Unite’s National Women’s Committee and National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Committee came together to agree the following statement on gender, which was also agreed by the Unite Executive Council.  

Unite believes in the principle of self-determination and empowerment through collective action as the route to tackling the discrimination that working class people face. Unite believes that by working together and tackling discrimination and oppression faced by our individual members we improve the working conditions of all workers.   

Respect and tolerance are crucial and we oppose all hate crime, bullying and harassment, we therefore oppose any construct of a debate which seeks to divide and set one group of workers against another and will defend our members against any homophobic, transphobic or sexist hate language or abuse. Unite also believes that our members have the right to freedom of speech and that we have the right to disagree.  

Unite recognises that there are people who do not identify as either male or female whose identities are not widely recognised by society. Individuals with non-binary titles, pronouns and modes of dress as well as the issues associated with being unable to express one’s gender identity within the workplace. Unite believes there is a lot of work to be done, across both workplaces and government, to recognise additional gender identities. 

Unite believes that any worker has the right to determine their gender identity without unnecessary medicalisation, and supports the review of the process of applying for gender recognition process / certificate.  All Unite members who identify as women and meet the rule 6 qualifications of being a union workplace representative in employment are welcome to participate in the women’s structure of Unite.  

Unite recognises that sex discrimination at work arises from deeply ingrained patriarchal and systemic oppression of women and that our women’s structure empowers women through a process of democratic policy making and collective action against gender stereotyping, occupational segregation, violence, harassment and pay discrimination and recognising our diversity as black, Asian and ethnic minority women, lesbian, bisexual and trans women, disabled women, younger and older women.  

Unite’s women’s structure has prioritised the gender pay gap, social security and pensions, decent work and employment rights, equality monitoring and auditing, positive action to tackle under representation of women, flexible working and decent child care, pregnancy discrimination, menopause, abortion rights, gender sensitive health and safety, sexual harassment and violence against women, a woman’s right to choose a legal safe abortion on the NHS and the right to organise in a trade union. Unite recognises that some of these issues may well affect trans men, and not all of these issues affect trans women.  

Unite’s women’s structure supports women only spaces in addition to gender neutral spaces and is particularly concerned that our trans members should be protected the from harassment and violence they face from the lack of gender neutral space.   

Unite addresses the issues of transphobia within its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans structure. All Unite members who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and meet the rule 6 qualifications of being a union work place representative in employment are welcome to participate in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans structure of Unite. 

Unite’s LGBT structure and union reps play a crucial role to ensure discrimination against our Trans members is prevented and a trans friendly environment is created in workplaces. Unite’s  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans  structure has prioritised tackling transphobic hate crime and negotiating trans work place policies.  

By working together to tackle the discrimination we all face, Unite believes that we will create a more tolerant, fairer society for all. We recognise that many of the issues we face are intersectional and at the same time we reject the notion of hierarchy of oppression. We oppose division between our Women’s movement and our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans movement, our campaigns to tackle discrimination are inclusive and member led. Join us. 


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