Human Rights / Labour

“Gay-lesbian union supported the striking miners, companionship started”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The 3rd Symposium against Discrimination organized by Kaos GL Association brought union activists from the United Kingdom to Ankara. Activists discussed the solidarity between LGBT people with the miners, and the relations between racism and homophobia.


Held at Tum Bel-Sen (Trade Union for All Workers of Municipality and Local Administration Services) conference hall last weekend, the second session of the 3rd Symposium against Discrimination on Saturday focused on experiences with trade unions in the UK.


The session was moderated by Kursad Kahramanoglu, the member of Kaos GL Association, and the former external relations coordinator for UNISON. The speakers were Executive Director & Co-founder of UK Black Pride and Head of Campaigns for Public & Commercial Services Union Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and Gethin Roberts as the member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.


Here are the some highlights from the session:


Gethin Roberts: As a gay-lesbian union, we supported the miners


I’d like to make my speech on what progress the LGBT activists in the United Kingdom have made in the past, and what they are doing right now. The process starting with the closure of the mines under Thatcher government caused great loses and financial difficulties for miners. In those days, the funds of the Union of Mineworkers were seized by government, illegal police interventions were common. The arrests were made despite the support on a mass scale. We financially supported the miners back then. In this way, we cement an enduring friendship for 30 years.


The government conducted planned acts of violence, it is possible to see those plans in documents we have access today. It was a terrible defeat at the very time when we were so close to the victory.


In the movie “Pride” one can find young peple, LGBTs and all in solidarity with each other. Today, on the other hand, greed and rivalry are seen inevitable. Neoliberals get into the heads of people and rip solidarity off.


Kursad Kahramanoglu: Miners’ strike in the UK, the Gezi Movement in Turkey


The process which ended in failure for the workers continued merely with the support of small groups. It was just a group of people against a powerful government, and it ended unhappily.


Even today, people think LGBT movement only in sexual terms. However, the miners’ strike and the Gezi Movement in Turkey are very similar examples in terms of their function.


Phyll Opoku-Gyimah: We should create spaces where everyone can come out


To begin with, UK Black Pride was criticized with being “seperatist” when it was first intended to be founded. Unions are usually exposed such criticism, either.


Yet we all know the importance of unionization and necessity of their movements. As the head of it, I work with UK Black Pride in the field of public services and union rights. In the UK, right wing extremists, racist and homophobes target lesbians and gays. We are fighting against such discourses.


A space where everyone can come out must be created. UK Black Pride came out of the suppression, and I believe that it will continue to create spaces for people. Our members are very diverse. We have members from Turkey, Cyprus. We embrace all, and everyone can be a member of us. I will conclude my speech with a quote from Desmond Tutu: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor!"

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