RMT’s Biggest Ever LGBT Conference Sets Out Plan Of Action
A plan of public campaigning and a high-profile presence at Pride events were the keynote decisions at RMT’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender conference – the biggest in its history.
A contagious mood of activity and growth permeated the gathering, which pledged solidarity with working people fighting for LGBT rights at home and abroad. Conference chair noted that the LGBT committee had gained 12 new members, was planning a major presence at Pride in London on July 7 and at Tolpuddle, and had been involved in Pride events at Bristol and Blackpool.
A Tsunami of attacks
General secretary Bob Crow paid tribute to the growing strength of the conference, which was now an established part of the RMT family. UK workers were facing a “tsunami of attacks” from the government, warned Bob, and RMT members needed to brace themselves to resist a massacre of jobs, pay and conditions threatened by the McNulty proposals now enshrined as government policy. The union also faced the pernicious attack on legal rights, including the imposition of tribunal fees and other changes that would cost the union well over £1 million a year.
Work still needed to be done to ensure that vacancies on the LGBT advisory committee were filled, delegates agreed. Regional organisers should supply details of strategies for organising against homophobia and for equality, and members of the advisory committee should attend regional councils to promote its work.
“There are too many areas that don’t send people to the committee and we need to do the work to get these vacancies filled,” - Mark Beresford
The union needed to be proactive in promoting the LGBT committee and its work, said Jo Parry, TfL No 1 “There are too many areas that don’t send people to the committee and we need to do the work to get these vacancies filled,” said Mark Beresford, Bedlington, adding: “I can’t believe that I am the only gay man in Network Rail.”
Janine Booth, Council of Executives, underlined the importance of understanding that LGBT rights had to be fought for over decades, and ensuring that LGBT issues were built into all the union’s education courses. Janine reported that the new membership form would now include a question on sexual orientation, emphasising that information gathered would be kept confidential.
The struggle against homophobia was a world-wide one, delegates agreed, pledging to build solidarity links with LGBT rights campaigners and trade unionists around the world. Gay rights activists were reporting an alarming trend of worsening of LGBT rights in many countries, said Paul Penny, Stratford No 1. Homosexuality was illegal in 37 African countries, and in many countries there were increasing levels of violence against LGBT people, encouraged by bigoted religious and political leaders. “Colonialism didn’t bring homosexuality to Africa, it brought homophobia there,” said Paul.
Marriage should be defined as ‘a union between consenting adults’, conference agreed, calling on the union to campaign for equal marriage rights. The sad saga that nearly saw ‘gay cure’ adverts on London buses was condemned. Delegates called for TfL to have clear guidelines in place so that such offensive ads could never be published, and for the union to express its disgust to TfL.
Educate To Eradicate Homophobia
RMT should support the work of Diversity Role Models charity, which seeks to break down homophobia and gender-based bullying through education, conference agreed. AGM Bullying and harassment of young LGBT people was rife in schools, and they were three times more likely to attempt suicide, John Stack, Finsbury Park, pointed out.
“This work helps massively to break down the stereotyping that is so damaging to young people,” said Tony Parris South Hants The work of the 17-24-30 Organisation in challenging hate-crime was outlined by guest speaker Mark Healey, who urged support for its fourth annual vigil, to be held on October 20. The campaign, named after dates of nail bombs targeted against the black, Asian and gay communities in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in April 1999, aimed to unite communities against hate crime and had generated massive support.
Conference unanimously called to support international rights for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. Oliver New highlighted United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s speech in March calling on all countries around the world to decriminalise consensual same- sex relationships and end the discrimination against LGBT people.
He said that in 76 countries being gay is illegal and in 10 of these it is punishable by death or life imprisonment. LGBT people in regions around the world are victims of violence, such as targeted killings, violent assaults and torture, conference heard. In St Petersburg, Russia, a law has recently been passed making it illegal to speak in public about being LGBT and across Africa parliaments are advocating laws to penalise and even execute gay people.
Elsewhere, in Iraq religious militias have brutally murdered hundreds of gay men and young men perceived to be gay while the Iranian theocratic regime criminalises and oppresses homosexuality. Delegates said that human rights are for all people in all countries and proposals to cut aid to countries with anti-gay laws may be counterproductive and are generally not supported by LGBT groups in those countries.
Support and mobilise
The union agreed to support campaigns against homophobia around the world, build solidarity links with LGBT rights campaigners and trade unionists around the world, support and mobilise for appropriate protest actions and raise the issue of their rights at international events that the union attends. It also pledged to continue supporting LGBT workers and trade union rights in countries such as Iran, while opposing military action against them.
A call to tackle homophobia in schools in Britain through education was also made including running political campaigns to oppose cuts in funding to anti-bullying initiatives.
These articles are taken from RMT News August edition.
- Read more LGBT stories from the RMT London Calling site here.