Putting LGBTQIA+ rights on the union agenda
May 16, 2023
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IDAHOBIT – International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia is an important day in the union calendar. On this day in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the classification of diseases. This was an important step, but every day since then, the LGBTQIA+ community has continued the fight to eliminate discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexuality and gender expression. Trade unions play an important part in this fight.
As the Global Union Federation accredited to the WHO and representing workers delivering the critical public services that are key to overcoming discrimination and inequalities, it’s fitting that PSI coordinates the work of global unions on LGBTQIA+ rights.
The PSI Young Workers network have been vocal advocates for more inclusive unionism, including in putting LGBTQIA+ rights on the union agenda. In the Asia Pacific region, the young workers network moved a resolution last year to support continuation and expansion of the work PSI is going on LGBTQIA+ rights.
We have seen PSI affiliates step up and play a critical role in fights like the marriage equality vote in Australia, where unions swung their resources into the campaign, securing a victory for their members and the community. We’ve seen progress in countries like Singapore where the government finally decriminalised same sex intimacy last year, and in India where the Supreme Court struck down archaic laws.
Maddy Northam PSI Asia Pacific Young Worker Titular on the Executive Board
There are countless LGBTQIA+ workers in the Asia Pacific that are not safe to be themselves at work. Even workers who promote inclusivity in the delivery of public services can face violence and harassment at work.
So where to next? There are countless LGBTQIA+ workers in the Asia Pacific that are not safe to be themselves at work. Even workers who promote inclusivity in the delivery of public services can face violence and harassment at work. Here in Australia, public library workers who simply hosted a book reading by a drag queen received death threats at work. In other countries, workers lose their jobs for being LGBTQIA+, others suffer sustained harassment and torment or worse.
There are still 14 countries in the Asia Pacific region that criminalise LGBTQIA+ people. We recognise that because of this, it can be difficult for affiliates to form union committees or strategies on these matters. Therefore, it is incumbent upon PSI to campaign for all public sector workers to be safe at work whether this be through pushing for legislative change, policy changes or education activities. And we should recognise that homophobia and transphobia being promoted by right wing movements is another attempt to divide workers and stop us from focusing on the work of fighting corporate power and inequality. It is the responsibility of all trade unionists to stand up with LGBTQIA+ members for a better life at work and in the community.
I encourage all affiliates to take action for equality and inclusion and access this action kit today.
Maddy Northam is the Community Public Services Union (CPSU) Regional Secretary for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and a PSI Asia Pacific Young Worker Titular on the Executive Board. She lives in Canberra, Australia with her wife and twin babies.