Tuesday, August 28, 2012

General Council Chapter Three - All chapters are equally important but some are more equally important than others

Continuing the review of this year's report of the General Council of the TUC to next month's Congress I have arrived at Chapter Three - "Equal Rights."

Following the unavoidably depressing reading of Chapter Two in the last post (http://www.jonrogers1963.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/general-council-chapter-two-just-when.html?m=1) I was hoping for more cheer. After all, during a generation of decline in union membership, density and power, there has still been some limited social progress on a range of equality issues.

However, the Chapter begins with a report of the attempts of the Coalition Government to limit the Equality Act, weaken the Public Sector Equality Duty and undermine the (already pretty toothless) Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The TUC, it is reported, are valiantly - and quite correctly - writing to Ministers and issuing briefings but to no avail.

The TUC may have made more of an impact on nudging the Government over its "Modern Workplace" proposals in relation to maternity, paternity and flexible working - joint guidance from ACAS and the EHRC on maternity/pregnancy and redundancy may, for example, prove useful to trade unionists.

This chapter goes on to report on the work of each of the TUC's four "Equality Committees" (broadly mirroring each of UNISON's Self-Organised Groups). In each case a large chunk of the work of the Committee has entailed looking at the impact of Government cuts on (respectively) women, black workers, disabled people and LGBT communities. The work of describing the differential and unequal impact of cuts is vital and important but - as someone once almost said - it is not enough to interpret the world. The point is to change it.

In this context, Chapter Three details the work being done under the auspices of the various Equality Committees.

The Women's Committee dealt with a range of international issues including the rights of migrant domestic workers and campaigned in defence of abortion rights and against violence against women.

The Race Relations Committee addressed issues around access to employment and training for young black people, opposition to the far right, the legacy of Stephen Lawrence and the rights of asylum seekers.

The Disabled Workers' Committee has supported Remploy workers, opposed welfare "reform" and highlighted hate crime against disabled people (possibly encouraged by hate speech from Ministers).

The LGBT Committee had worked through the TUC to ensure that the EHRC, in their interventions in European litigation, had supported progressive decisions of UK courts protecting LGBT people from (so-called) "faith based" discrimination and had campaigned around international solidarity (including support for World Pride in London), equal marriage and homophobia and transphobia in sport.

Regular readers (Sid and Doris Congress-House) will be happy to learn that a reading of Chapter Three leaves your blogger slightly further from the suicide- watch threatened by Chapter Two. Although our Tory Coalition Government is clearly determined to roll back as many of the social gains of the past as it can, the development of equality structures in our movement in the generation since we last faced such an onslaught probably equips us a little better to resist, not least because at least some of our priorities are now determined by (rather than for) our members who face particular forms of oppression.

At a rank and file level we need to support grassroots self-organisation wherever we can and to continue to try to build a diverse, inclusive, united and representative labour movement as the best defence for all our members.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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