UNTU members at the LRS learning reflection
ILO Convention 190 and the Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the World of Work have opened up further spaces for the LRS to support trade unions in promoting the rights of LGBTIQ+people. Convention 190 (C190) highlights the importance of addressing violence against marginalised groups. LGBTIQ+ people face prejudice and discrimination, which increases the risk of violence. The LRS partnerships with gender equality teams have seen progress in achieving trade union inclusion missions. Union activists are better equipped to raise awareness of rights and the need for policies, bargaining demands and strategies that can put in place measures to support and protect LGBTIQ+ people in the world of work.
The United National Transport Union (UNTU), a male-dominated union, has taken the lead in working to create a safe environment for LGBTIQ+ workers. Change often comes from a single spark, or a tiny seed that, if nurtured and cultivated, can grow into something powerful and transformative. At UNTU, this seed is embodied in the LRS resources and learning intervention for gender activists that has helped them to transform personally, organisationally and broadly.
This is a powerful example of what can happen when individuals work together towards a common goal in their place of work. Despite some challenges, the impact is felt within the organisation and in broader society.
Thinking of the LRS as a seed or tool, how did the organisation shift your role personally and in the broader ecosystem?
Who are you in it?
The journey of change begins with individuals acknowledging their roles within an organisation.
A core group of UNTU members are LGBTIQ+ rights and inclusion advocates. They can recognise and challenge their own heteronormative behaviours and practices and are aware of the role of C190 in advocating for the rights of workers and job seekers who are LGBTIQ+. They are committed to promoting a more inclusive culture in the union and to supporting LGBTIQ+ people.
LGBTIQ+ members have been placed at the forefront of the union’s outreach efforts to ensure members understand its commitment to ending violence, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
In talking to Letsema members, UNTU activists recognise the crucial support role of parents in ending homophobia.
Catalysing action - Three major shifts
UNTU’s transformation has its roots in FEDUSA, which inspires affiliates to create an inclusive world of work. UNTU’s rallying point is the Federation’s LGBTI Rights Resolution and Convention 190.
1. Trade union activists are leading the way
Union representatives have become knowledge bearers, sharing what they have learned in LRS spaces with their peers. They drive cultural change within UNTU by supporting LGBTIQ+ people and creating awareness among branch union members.
2. A focus on new members and job seekers
There is a particular focus on newly employed LGBTQI people and job seekers, recognising that younger members are often more confident in asserting their identity. The experience of rejection and lack of support from home, combined with discrimination, bullying and violence in the school and community, puts young LGBTQ+ people at a disadvantage when seeking work. The union branch structure serves as a space for discussing issues and solutions. But we need a wider audience and strong leadership support.
3. Personal transformations and impact
Activists have experienced a personal transformation. Increased visibility of LGBTIQ+ and awareness have empowered individuals both inside and outside the union. Members have taken on advocacy roles in their families and communities.
Challenges in the inclusion journey
The journey towards greater safety and inclusion has not been without its challenges. UNTU has made a concerted effort to eliminate offensive terms for LGBTIQ+ people and people with disabilities, recognising the importance of sensitive language use.
The journey ahead
While significant progress has been made, much work remains. It is crucial to bridge the gap between public and private spaces, and to tackle gender stereotyping and discrimination. More formal and informal education is needed to maintain the momentum. The commitment of UNTU members to support LGBTIQ+ workers’ rights exemplifies the potential for positive change when individuals unite to champion a workplace issue.
Video: Negotiating for inclusivity and against discrimination | FEDUSA’s LGBTIQ+ resolution
Read our interview with UNTU worker representative: