Human Rights / Labour

LGBTI rights are trade union rights!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Unionists from eight countries and representatives from LGBTI organizations met in Ankara last weekend for Kaos GL symposium.
The 3rd Symposium against Discrimination organized by Kaos GL Association spread the message “LGBTI rights are trade union rights!”
Activists joined in the budget protest on Saturday called by the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK) and the Confederation of Public Workers’ Union (KESK), asking for “budget for people, rather than palaces.”
“LGBTI people are subjected to self-censorship at workplace”
The 3rd Symposium against Discrimination was opened by Ulrike Lunacek, Co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI rights, with a video message.
Lunacek underlined that European Union’s chapters 23 and 24 should be opened in accession negotiations with Turkey, which focus on judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security.
Stating that laws are not enough to tackle discrimination, Lunacek stressed that LGBTI people are subjected to self-censorship at workplace.
“How come a police officer can be fired based on his sexual orientation in 2014 in Turkey?” asked Lunacek, pointing at the importance of heterosexual allies in the fight for LGBTI equality.
Here are some highlights from the sessions of the symposium:
“Don’t think that we won”
Peter Purton from Trades Union Congress (TUC), a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, presented the greetings of the first woman leader for the federation founded in 1868.
Claiming that the social attitudes towards LGBTI equality has changed for the better in last 20 years, Purton underlined that legal equality is not enough:
“Don’t think that we won because of legal equality. The number of hate crimes is higher than ever before. In my beautiful country that welcomed marriage equality there are many homeless gay youngsters.”
Lesbians and gays to support Soma
Gethin Roberts from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners told about their campaign to raise money for miners striking against the policies of Thatcher government in 1984/5.
Roberts also said that LGSM has been raising money after the mining tragedy in Soma, Manisa, which would be allocated to women through Kaos GL Association and Education and Science Workers’ Union (Egitim-Sen).
Detlet Mücke, one of the first openly gay teachers in Germany, told how trade unions used arguments such as “it’s your bedroom issue” and “you bring bad name to the unions” to avoid supporting gay rights.
“Without T, we would be incomplete”
On the second day of the symposium, Vreer Verkerke from Transgender Europe shared the information on trans employment from a report prepared by European Union Fundamental Rights Agency.
According to information Vreer presented, at least 25% of trans people in the Netherlands are either unemployed or underemployed.
“Our LGBTI commissions are being targeted”
Sakine Esen Yilmaz, General Secretary of Egitim-Sen, emphasized the fact that although KESK and Egitim-Sen include sexual orientation and gender identity in their legislations, the situation for LGBTI members did not really advance.
Talking about the inner and outer resistance that Egitim-Sen LGBTI Commissions face, Yilmaz expressed how media targets the commissions.
“Heterosexist perception of health is prevalent in Turkey”
Belkis Yurtsever, a nurse from the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services, pointed out that “a heterosexist perception” is prevalent in health sector.
Yurtsever also underlined that unnecessary medical intervention on intersex babies might result in serious health problems in upcoming years. 
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