Helen Kelly

For the last several years the CTU Out@Work council has urged the CTU and its affiliated unions that we need to have a resource available for union and workplaces to assist workplaces in managing and celebrating diversity. This resource, led by the CTU Out@Work Council, is the result of those efforts.

Since Out@Work was established in 2002 the CTU has advocated and campaigned for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer workers (LGBTIQ). This resource takes this activity further and asks unions and workers to be equality activists and ensure workplaces are safe and inclusive for workers with different gender and sexual identity.

The resource is written for unions and workplaces to provide advice and information on the hard to ask questions as well as the hard to answer ones. Among other things, it provides information on how to respond when there is discrimination and prejudice based on sexual or gender difference in workplaces. For people who aren’t members of unions it explains why unions are important and the benefits that are gained from workers acting together.

I hope that this resource will add to the great work the CTU Out@Work council has been doing in defending human rights and fighting against the discrimination faced by people in the workplace who have a different gender and/or sexual identity from the mainstream. This resource is important in promoting unions as a means of achieving equality for LGBTIQ workers and realising the power of our collective union strength.

Helen Kelly
NZCTU President
August 2013

Photograph of union members at a protest holding signs

Unions: what and why

Unions exist for workers to support each other so that they don’t have to face a problem, or negotiate improvements to their working conditions, on their own. When workers act together they have strength and safety in numbers and have a better chance of getting what they need at work and beyond. Everyone has the right to decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Unions ensure that, as a worker, your voice is heard, your views are respected and your rights under the law are upheld.

Unions are democratically run by their members. Union members elect union representatives (delegates) from workplaces, and make decisions on things like how the union is run, and what to focus on when negotiating with the employer and identify issues of concern e.g health and safety risks. Through the CTU, unions work co-operatively with other unions to improve the position of all New Zealand workers.

Unions employ union organisers who work alongside union members in a workplace and who bargain and negotiate with employers. This may include the negotiation of wages, discussion on health and safety concerns, policies concerning hiring, firing and promotion and other workplace issues. Union representatives are encouraged to be involved in equal employment opportunities in the workplaces on antidiscrimination and policies that promote equity and fair treatment. A United Kingdom trade union, UNISON, has developed facts sheets on bargaining and other relevant issues for their LGBTIQ members. These are included in this resource kit.

To join or find your union go to the CTU web site: http://union.org.nz/rights

rainbow circle

About the CTU Out@work network

Out@work is the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kaue Kaimahi (CTU) network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, takatāpui, fa’afafine and queer* workers (LGBTIQ). The CTU Out @Work Council was established in 2002 and is a recognised constitutional structure of the CTU.

Out@work recognises and celebrates diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity. Any member of a union, affiliated to the CTU, may join the out@work network. Out@work enables union members with different and diverse sexual identities, who may be isolated in their own unions, to be part of a wider union network that is focussed on the issues that are felt and experienced by LGBTIQ workers.

LGBTIQ workers are a vulnerable group of workers and commonly face workplace discrimination and prejudice. The objective of out@work is to ensure visible, recognised support and be a voice for the issues that union members, who have different or diverse sexual identity, face in the workplace.

Unions have an important role in creating workplaces that are safe and healthy for LGBTIQ workers and defending their rights. Particular issues for LGBTIQ workers include discrimination and harassment at work and denial of partnership benefits that are eligible to straight couples.

Out@work also focuses and campaigns on the wider issues of discrimination that LGBTIQ people face in society. Significant areas of work that out@work has focussed on in the last ten year period are:

  • A biennial conference that brings together LGBTIQ workers and union members  to celebrate diversity and being part of the union movement;
  • Analysing employment law changes as to how they will affect workers who are  more likely to experiences discrimination;
  • A focus on HIV/AIDS policies in the workplaces and education on the  International Labour Organisation resolution passed in 2010 on HIV/AIDs and the World of Work;
  • Education on international instruments in upholding human rights: the Yogyakarta Principles and the Montreal Declaration both of which apply human rights obligations to LGBTIQ people;
  • Letters and approaches to national governments on human rights abuses affecting LGBTIQ people;
  • Activism on campaigns that are based on issues of equality e.g. the Marriage
  • Equality campaign.

A number of CTU unions have structures to support LGBTIQ workers to ensure voice and enforce rights and fight against the discrimination that is faced by LGBTIQ workers.

*Out@work uses the term “queer” knowing that not all people feel comfortable with it but does so in recognition that some people choose this term and also the absence of a better term.