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LGBT+ rights are a union issue

17 May 2020
The Council of Global Unions makes a joint statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). The Council of Global Unions, a group of independent trade union organisations that represent over 200 million workers around the world, reaffirm our commitment to building respect and dignity for all workers. We believe every worker is entitled to work free from discrimination and violence regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.  

30 years ago today, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Since that historic day, the LGBTI community has worked to eradicate harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender expression through laws and policies as well as through activities that celebrate diversity.  As trade unions and members of the global community, we have played an important role in promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace and will continue to work to protect our LGBTI members.

However, despite the many achievements, homophobia still exists. LGBTI workers still suffer labour disparities and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or identity. These range from income disparity to workplace harassment, from unfair treatment at work to discrimination when applying for a job.

In times of crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing, this situation worsens. From barriers to access health services to stigmatisation; from the rise of online cyberbullying and hate speech to domestic violence; LGBTI workers are facing an unprecedented situation that places them at a higher risk of poor mental and personal health. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of LGBTI workers as they are disproportionately represented in industries and sectors which are hardest hit by the pandemic such as retail, hospitality and tourism. This will expose them to higher levels of economic hardship and unemployment which will have ramifications for their health and well-being.

Today, we stand up for LGBTI workers and their rights, which are human rights. We will continue to fight for workplaces free of discrimination and harassment, we will mobilize to protect them and to raise their issues and needs.

To achieve this, we have set up a CGU working group on LGBTI rights. We will adopt an LGBTI Solidarity Charter and will continue to work with our affiliated unions to improve LGBTI structures and policies to build a stronger and more inclusive global trade union movement.

Let’s stand up to intolerance and discrimination where we see it. Let’s keep working to ensure our unions are more LGBTI inclusive. Let’s go beyond single days of action and tackle systemic gender, income and racialised inequalities every day.

Global unions commit to continue fighting for the rights of all workers and call on their affiliates around the world to support the campaign to end violence and discrimination in the workplace.

Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary and CGU chair, added: “Today, 17 May, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 2020 marks an important year because, for the first time, the Council of Global Unions has come together to mark the occasion with a joint statement in solidarity with our LGBT+ colleagues."

"Inclusive workplaces and communities are central to our shared vision for a better society. We want to see a world free from discrimination and violence, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That is why we are pushing so hard to make ILO Convention 190 a lived reality for workers everywhere."

"Today, I want to extend warm greetings to our LGBT+ colleagues in the transport sector worldwide. Your fight is our fight. We will not rest until all workers have achieved equality.”

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