E-Equality Newsletter No. 1 April 2008

  • Equality Reps’ Project
  • Defend abortion rights – a woman’s right to choose
  • Dignity at Work Seminars
  • Sign petition to end violence against women
  • Equality and Discrimination Law News
  • Other News

Equality Reps’ Project

Find out more about Unite’s Equality Reps’ Project – invite to attend a one-day seminar in May 2008. Are you interested in promoting equality and fairness in your workplace? Do you think that your employer should treat workers with more dignity and respect? Have you got equal pay where you work? Do you and your colleagues find yourself pressurised to work long hours? Would you like to stamp out discrimination and harassment at work? Does your employer give everyone equal access to jobs, promotion and training?

If you are interested in any of these issues then come along to one of the seminars that we are running in May to find out more about the Equality Reps’ Project. This major two-year Project was launched in February 2008 and involves the development of 400 new Equality Reps throughout the union.

Unite is committed to achieving equality in the workplace – the role of Equality Rep was enshrined in the instrument of amalgamation in the union merger and will be included in the new Unite rule book. Equality Reps will have the same rights of participation within the union, alongside Workplace, Learning and Health & Safety Reps.

Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary, commented “Equality Reps will improve the ability of the union to respond to the increasing diversity of the labour market, and to supply services geared to the needs of a diverse membership. By developing new methods of engaging members who experience discrimination, and encouraging members to become Equality Reps, the project aims to increase the diversity of both its membership and representatives. The union will also be engaging with employers to build best practice in facilitating the role of the Equality Reps in the workplace and to ensure that Equality Reps are fully recognised by the employer. If Unite is to achieve equality in the workplace we need Equality Reps who are negotiating with employers and keeping our members informed about equality issues and legislation”

If you would like to find out more about the project and the role of an Equality Rep then apply to attend one of our seminars in May. Can you please complete and return the application form to Bridget Clemson. The application can be downloaded.

Bridget Clemson, National Administrator for Equalities, Unite, 35 King Street,
Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8JG . Fax 020 7420 8999.

Defend abortion rights – a woman’s right to choose
Defend abortion rights – no attack on 24-week time limit – a woman’s right to choose

National Lobby of Parliament – Wednesday 7 May – 3-6pm 7pm public meeting (venue tbc)

Unite is a major supporter of this important lobby with the current 24 week limit for abortion under attack from the anti-abortionists who are attempting to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to make later abortions illegal. If successful, this attack will hit women in the most vulnerable situations and encourage the anti-choice lobby to try to erode abortion rights further.

We must not allow this to happen – women campaigned for the 1967 Abortion Act and the legal right to an abortion has saved the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of women. The issue of later abortions has become the subject of intense media and policy interest with concerns about the ethics of continuing abortion up to 24 weeks. The decision to have an abortion is one which women never take lightly, particularly when the decision has to be made later in pregnancy. Less than 2% of abortions take place after 20 weeks, but they are needed by women who face exceptional and very difficult circumstances. They are required for compelling reasons – most commonly because of late diagnosis (peri-menopausal women or women using contraception); women ‘in denial’ because of trauma at conception (rape or abuse); serious NHS delays; or due to catastrophic changes in their life circumstances (serious issues with an existing child or domestic violence).

The current debate on abortion has been dominated by a misleading narrative that there have been dramatic scientific breakthroughs in foetal viability and sentience in recent years. There have been developments in foetal medicine, but none that requires a reappraisal of the status of the foetus, and none that would make anyone more qualified to make a choice about a pregnancy than the woman concerned. As the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee’s recent Inquiry into the scientific aspects of abortion concluded:

” while survival rates at 24 weeks (the current upper limit for abortion) and over have improved since 1990, survival rates (viability) have not done so below that gestational point. The Committee concludes that there is no scientific basis – on the grounds on viability – to reduce the upper time limit.”

The lobby will be an important opportunity to make sure MPs feel the strength of pro-choice opinion ahead of key votes on abortion in the House of Commons. Put the date in the diary, make an appointment with your MP, start organizing transport and encourage friends and colleagues to join you and sign the petition. Get involved in the Abortion Rights “Pro-choice Week of Action ahead of the 40 th anniversary of the enactment of 1967 Abortion Act on 27 th April 2008 . This is an opportunity for all supporters to get active locally with street stalls, petitions, public meetings and letters to the local press.

83 per cent of the British public support a woman’s right to choose. For more information see the Abortion Rights website

Dignity at Work Seminars
Over 350 Workplace Reps across all the regions have attended the Unite Dignity at Work Seminars that have been run over the last couple of months as part of the Dignity at Work Project. At the end of the seminars the aim was that reps would be able to:-

Understand what dignity at work means

  • Explain the meaning of harassment and bullying
  • Recognise the impact harassment and bullying has on individuals; employers and the wider community
  • Identify their own role in supporting the overall objective
  • Identify and contribute towards best practice
  • Seek out further sources of information

The feedback on the seminars has been excellent – David Ward, Royal, Sun Alliance Workplace Rep commented “I found the seminar both interesting and informative. As a direct result of a number of RSA reps attending the seminar we will be prioritising the issue on our committee and talking to management about developing a zero tolerance to bullying and harassment at work”.

Sign petition to end violence against women
Each year, 3 million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking or another form of gender-based violence and there are many, many more who have suffered violence in the past. They deserve specialised support services, such as refuges and Rape Crisis Centres, yet Map of Gaps , published by the End Violence Against Women Campaign and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, graphically shows the postcode lottery in these essential services:

  • A third of local authorities across the UK have no specialised services at all
  • Only one in ten local authorities have services for ethnic minority women
  • Most women in the UK don’t have access to a Rape Crisis Centre

Ask Gordon Brown to take urgent action to end the postcode lottery by taking a minute to sign the Downing Street e-petition. Download Map of Gaps.

Equality and Discrimination Law News

Sex Discrimination Act
A number of important changes are being made to the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act by amendment regulations which came into effect on 6 April. These include:

  • Regulation 2 which amends the definition of discrimination on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave to eliminate the requirement of a comparator who is not pregnant or not on maternity leave
  • Regulation 3 which amends the definition of harassment to remove the causal link between harassment and the sex of the person being harassed. The change enables claims to be made by someone who is not subjected to the unwanted conduct themselves but the effect of which nonetheless violates their dignity or creates an intimidating or hostile environment
  • Regulation 4 which requires employers to take reasonably practicable steps to protect employees from harassment by third parties where such harassment is known to have occurred on at least two other occasions.

For more information, go to here

Dismissal during IVF treatment can be sex discrimination
The ECJ recently handed down its much-anticipated judgment in Mayr v Bäckerei und Konditorei Gerhard Flöckner OHG on the dismissal of a female employee undergoing advanced in vitro fertilisation (“IVF”) treatment. The decision clarifies when during IVF treatment a woman is classified as “pregnant” and protected by the Pregnant Workers Directive and is a useful warning to employers of the risks via the Equal Treatment Directive of dismissing employees undergoing fertility treatment.

This case concerned a waitress (“M”) in Austria who was at an advanced stage of IVF treatment. Her doctor certified her sick following a further course of IVF treatment. Whilst off sick, her employer dismissed her. M informed her employer that her ova had already been fertilised. However it was not until after her dismissal that the ova were transferred into her uterus. She claimed that she was entitled to protection against dismissal under national law implement! ing Art. 10 of the EC Pregnant Workers Directive 92/85/EEC (the “Pregnancy Directive”). The employer argued that at the time of dismissal, M was not actually pregnant and was therefore not entitled to protection under the law. The national court referred the case to the ECJ to decide whether the Pregnancy Directive, which prohibits the dismissal of pregnant workers, applied to someone who had yet to have their fertilized ova implanted into her uterus.

The ECJ ruling was that the Pregnancy Directive cannot apply to M’s situation. The Court took a pragmatic view that IVF treatment may last for an indefinite period, that the transfer of the fertilised ova may be postponed or even abandoned; therefore pregnancy can only occur upon transfer of the fertilised ova into the uterus.

However, the ECJ also ruled that a woman in M’s situation could potentially rely on Art. 2(1) of the EC Equal Treatment Directive 76/207/EEC (the “Equal Treatment Directive”) for protection against dismissal at the advanced stages of IVF treatment, which like pregnancy, only directly affects women. Therefore the Equal Treatment Directive prohibits the dismissal of a woman who is at an advanced stage in her IVF Treatment if the decision to dismiss her is based on the fact that she has undergone such treatment.

Other News

Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew to elect Equality Reps
Unite Cabin Crew members employed at Virgin Atlantic will get the opportunity to elect Equality Representatives in their forthcoming elections. Unite Regional Officer Dave Kelly along with VA Workplace Reps have embarked on a review of the existing procedural and facilities agreement with the Company which will culminate in June with elections for all Workplace Rep positions at VA.

“With the current Unite initiative gathering momentum, we felt it was an excellent opportunity to establish an Equalities Rep at VA. Cabin Crew are a diverse group, with equalities at the forefront of many daily matters” stated Dave.

“Flexible working in an environment where the majority of the workforce are women, new young workers coming into the business, gender issues, and equality in career progression, are just some of the real problems our members face in Civil Air Transport Sector, and Unite wants to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to put equalities at the forefront of the work we do in this ever changing industry”. Our initial discussions with Virgin Atlantic Management have been extremely positive in relation to this subject”, added Dave.

Unite Lil-Lets campaign
Unite is leading a boycott campaign against Lil-lets who closed their last UK factory and exported production to Taiwan and Poland . The aim of the campaign is to get Lil-lets private equity owners, Electra back to the negotiating table over the pensions of the Lil-lets older workers. In past redundancy situations Lil-lets paid extra into the pension fund so that workers who took their pension early would not suffer a reduction. However when Lil-lets closed their last UK factory in June 2007, the company refused to do so.

As a result 46 older workers will now receive up to 30 per cent less pension than they had hoped if they take their pension early. This means they now face a very different retirement than they were planning for.

All negotiations to date have failed and Unite believes a boycott of Lil-lets is the best way to make private equity company Electra do what we believe to be the right thing.

Unite has produced ‘Period Drama’ to highlight Lil-lets boycott

Entitled ‘A Period Drama’ the light hearted film calls on its viewers to boycott Lil-lets. The film went out as a ‘viral email’ to union members who were asked to forward the link to their friends and colleagues.

Derek Simpson, Unite Joint General Secretary says: “The power of the internet gives unions the potential to go beyond it membership and reach out directly to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people and influence their consumer choices.

We’ve taken the period drama genre and used it to highlight one of the biggest issues facing this country – the exportation of UK jobs to low cost countries and the effect this has on the people who suffer the consequences.”

Hope not Hate Campaign
Unite reps and members will be out in force over the next few weeks campaigning to ensure that the BNP are not successful in the May elections. A key priority will be stopping the BNP winning representation on the London Assembly. If you would like to find out more about action in your area see the Hope not Hate website or contact your Regional Officer to find out what Unite is doing in your region.

Mind the Gap
The gender pay gap more than trebles when women reach their 30s, according to a new TUC report “Closing the Gender Pay Gap” found that adult women in all age groups earn less than men of the same age, but the sharpest increase happens to women in their 30s. The difference between men’s and women’s full-time earnings rises from 3.3 per cent for women aged 22-29 to 11.2 per cent for women aged 30-39.

There are a number of reasons for the pay gap. It partly arises because so many women work in low-paid jobs such as childcare and cleaning; partly because women’s skills are generally undervalued; and partly because of an “employment penalty” for mothers which goes some way to explain why the pay gap hits women in their 30s the hardest.

The report also says that women are twice as likely to be poor as men. Over one in four women (27 per cent) are classified as poor, by being in the lowest earning bracket, compared to just 13 per cent of men. The average weekly disposable income for women is £127, £85 less than men.

A lack of quality, well-paid work is cited as one of the main causes of women’s poverty, as nearly half of all part-time jobs are low paid. Women working part time earn nearly 40 per cent less per hour than men working full time. With 7.5 million part-time workers, Britain has one of the highest proportions of part timers in Europe , and more than three quarters of them are female. Get a copy of the full report.

Female apprentices still face discrimination
The TUC has published research which shows that female apprentices are still being left far behind their male counterparts. The report Still More (Better Paid) Jobs for the Boys – prepared for the TUC Young Members Forum – shows that while more apprenticeship places have opened up for women in general, this has not happened in better paid male-dominated sectors such as engineering and construction.

The TUC report shows that little has changed – and in some cases the situation has worsened – in the three years since the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) completed its report looking at this issue in detail.

The proportion of men and women entering into apprenticeships overall are fairly even – 54.2 per cent of people starting apprenticeships in 2006/07 were men, and 45.8 per cent were women – but apprenticeships are still strongly divided along gender lines. In 2006/07, the worst industry culprits were construction with only 1.3 per cent women apprentices, vehicle maintenance (1.4 per cent female apprentices) and engineering (2.5 per cent).

During the same period, 97.1 per cent of apprentices in childcare were female and 91.7 per cent of hairdressing apprenticeships were women, the two lowest paying sectors. This divide was identified by both the EOC and the Women and Work Commission, but this new TUC report shows that there has been virtually no change since 2002/03. In engineering the situation has actually worsened, with the proportion of women apprentices falling from 4.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent between 2002/03 and 2006/07.

John Walsh, Unite’s Chair of the Young Members’ Committee and member of the TUC Young Members’ Committee commented “Unite is campaigning for all apprentices to have the right to the minimum wage and that employers and the Government need to do more to increase the proportion of women taking up apprenticeships in traditional male areas. This must happen if we are going to make progress on closing the gender pay gap.”

TUC publishes report on migrant workers

The TUC has published a report on migrant workers. This report presents evidence of widespread mistreatment of migrant agency workers and demonstrates the importance of an EU Temporary Agency Worker Directive to promote equal treatment for all agency workers. Get the report here.

Child Poverty on the increase
The Government’s strategy against poverty and social exclusion, pursued since the late 1990s, has lost momentum and is in urgent need of a major rethink. This is the conclusion of the authors of the tenth annual Monitoring poverty and social exclusion report from the New Policy Institute, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation since 1998.

Covering 50 indicators of poverty and social exclusion, the report records a worsening in the last year in nine of them, mainly in the key areas of income and work. These have been offset by improvements in seven, chiefly to do with primary education, premature death and homelessness.

The most serious setback is the increase of 200,000 children living in poverty in 2005/06 (3.8 million children) compared to the year before. As a result, there has been no sustained progress on child poverty in three years.

The number of children living in poverty has fallen by 600,000 since the Government made its pledge to end child poverty in 1999. But this still leaves the Government 500,000 short of the target it should have reached in A summary of findings is available.

Unite is joining forces with the Fawcett Society and Oxfam, in conjunction with the influential Women’s Budget Group to organise a high profile campaign on ending child poverty focusing around women’s income.

Siobhan Endean Head of Equality of Unite launched the union’s campaign to End Child Poverty at the Finance sector equality conference on 23 rd November.

Advice on the Social Model of Disability
A progressive understanding of disability discrimination requires adopting a Social Model approach. This briefing, agreed by the TUC Disability Committee and TUC General Council, advises unions on practical steps that follow from adopting the Social Model. See here.

Carers lose £11,000 a year in earnings
Carers lose jobs or cut hours in search for work-life balance, new research has found. The cost include almost £11,000 a year in earnings on average through caring for disabled or sick relatives, according ‘Out of pocket’, a report from Carers UK. Its survey of 3,000 carers shows the extent of the financial difficulties faced by working carers trying to balance their jobs with their caring responsibilities, the carers’ lobby group said. About one in five of the nation’s 4.4 million carers of working age have to give up their employment in order to care. Men lose out on an average of £13,681 per annum compared to an average of £10,083 per annum for women. Nearly 45 per cent of working age carers say they would like to work but more than a third (38 per cent) say they cannot work unless they have the right care services.

Support the Unite Campaign to Look Behind the Meat Label
Unite believes the supermarkets’ drive to make more profits is having worrying consequences for workers and communities in the UK . Unite is campaigning for retailers like M&S to put its ethical standards into practice and put consumers, workers and communities first.

In the drive to cut costs, many workers in the UK who work for companies supplying meat to M&S are experiencing harsh and divisive conditions. Often mainly migrant agency workers are being paid less for doing the same job as direct employees of the supply companies. This is not just exploitative but can lead to divided workplaces and communities, with agency workers blamed for undercutting other staff.

And in the drive to make more profits, supermarkets have switched to buying more meat from countries like Thailand and Brazil . Why? Is the meat better? Or safer? No – surprise, surprise, it’s cheaper.

We want M&S to practice what it preaches. Unite wants M&S to have the highest ethical standards in the treatment of customers and to insist upon the highest ethical standards for workers employed by companies throughout the supply chain.

How you can help: Please sign the online petition Find our more about the campaign.

Join the Unite the union facebook campaign: look behind the label group.

Venezuela Moves To Protect Gays In New Constitution
( Caracas ) Venezuela may become the first nation in South America to constitutionally protect its citizens on the basis of sexuality. The government has been examining a call by President Hugo Chavez’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution.The Chavez-controlled National Assembly has approved amendments that would add sexual orientation to the categories protected under human rights. The issue had already received the OK of various committees, signaling the measure was likely to gain approval of the Assembly. Among those speaking passionately in favor of the measure was Rep. Iris Varela from the state of Tachira. The section of the proposed constitution also would include a ban on discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age and health condition. The new constitution would lower the age at which people can vote to 16 from the current age of 18. The draft constitution must still be approved by the electorate.

TUC launches campaign against HIV discrimination at work
To coincide with World AIDS Day 2007 in December the TUC has launched a workplace leaflet and poster campaign about HIV, to combat the discrimination and stigma that accompanies infection.

TUC LGBT Equality Newsletter No 8
Published on Trans Memorial Day 2007, the newsletter reports on this and on World AIDS Day, on international campaigns for Jamaica and Iraq , on forthcoming international trade union/TUC events; and updates on UK campaigns on education, monitoring and the National Census.
Events and Training

Unite Equality Training Courses

Unite will be running a number of Unite equality training courses in 2008 ranging from discrimination law, to leadership for equality activists and stress, harassment and bullying. If you would like to find out more see here.

Pride Events 2008
Planned Pride events for 2008 are listed below. Unite will be supporting a lot of these events and you can contact your Regional Office to find out more.

February 2008
LGBT History Month – Nationwide

2-10 February 2008
Winter Pride – Brighton

Saturday 1 March 2008
Sydney Mardi Gras – Australia

27 March to 10 April 2008
London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

28 April to 4 May 2008
Equality Forum – Philadelphia

17-18 May 2008
Blackpool Gay Pride

Thursday 17 May 2008
International Day Against Homophobia – IDAHO

9-25 May 2008
Queer Up North – Greater Manchester

24-25 May 2008
Birmingham Gay Pride

Saturday 7 June 2008
Scottish Borders LGBT Pride Barbeque

Saturday 7 June 2008
Plymouth Gay Pride

Saturday 7 June 2008
South Yorkshire Pride – Sheffield

Saturday 5 July 2008
Pride London – Parade and rally

Saturday 5 July 2008
Rainbow Fest – Aberdeen

11-13 July 2008
Bourne Free – Bournemouth

Saturday 12 July 2008
Northern Pride – Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Saturday 12 July 2008
Oxford Gay Pride

19-20 July 2008
Lincolnshire Gay Pride

25 July – 3 August 2008
EuroPride in STOCKHOLM – Sweden

26 July – 3 August 2008
Brighton and Hove Gay Pride – Festival

26 July – 2 August 2008
Belfast Gay Pride

27 July 2008
Huddersfield Pink Picnic

Saturday 26 August 2008
Nottingham Pride

Saturday 2 August 2008
Brighton and Hove Gay Pride – Parade and park party

Sunday 3 August 2008
Pride in our City – Leeds

7-10 August 2008
Reykjavik Gay Pride – Iceland

Saturday 9 August 2008
Gloucestershire Rainbow Day

Saturday 9 August 2008
Hull Pride

Saturday 16 August 2008
UK Black Pride – London

Saturday 16 August
Swindon Pride

Sunday 17 August 2008
Doncaster Pride

15 – 25 August 2008
Manchester Gay Pride – Festival

Saturday 23 August 2008
Manchester Gay Pride – Parade

Saturday 23 August 2008
Cornwall Gay Pride – Beach picnic Day

Saturday 30 August 2008
Reading Gay Pride

Saturday 6 September 2008
Cardiff Pride

Saturday 6 September 2008
Swansea Pride

11-14 September 2008
SuperGay weekender – Middlesbrough

26 September 2008
Derby Pride

23-26 October 2008
York Lesbian Arts F estival

Institute of Employment Rights Seminars
Information and Consultation: Spreading the Word A half-day seminar


Speakers include: Simon Sapper CWU, Richard Arthur- Thompsons, Roger Welch

The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations have attained notoriety because of the lack of their enforcement and the confusion that they have caused.

Tired? Getting on top of long hours
A half-day seminar

Speakers include: Steve Cottingham O H Parsons http://www.ier.org.uk/event

If you would like to attend any of these seminars you will need to contact your Regional Officer.

If you would like to receive the e-equality Newsletter on a regular basis and are not doing so already, please contact Bridget Clemson, National Administrator, Equalities, with your e-mail address, to be added to our contact list.

Contact Karen Cole, Unite Amicus Project Development Officer, about any best practice or action in your organisation in relation to equality issues which can be included in the Newsletter. e-mail Karen on

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