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I'm a union man (or woman)

Wed 10 Aug 2011 In: Comment View at Wayback

If the Key administration is elected, what happens to our workplace and employment rights under the Human Rights Act 1993? To find out, I had a look at the Council of Trade Unions' Out at Work network page. Out at Work is a network of LGBT, takatapui, whakawahine and intersex trade unionists that was established in 2000. Each affiliated CTU union can send representatives along to Out at Work meetings, which occur quarterly. The next one is at the EPMU offices at Rongotai.Jo Wrigley and Karena Brown are the current convenors. At present, the constituent Out at Work unions are the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, the Engineering Printers and Manufacturing Union, the Public Service Association, FinSec, the Post-Primary Teachers Association, the New Zealand Educational Institute and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union. Some current Labour list and constituency MPs are also backed by unions- in Manurewa, Louisa Wall is supported by the Service and Food Workers Union, while Wellington Central's Grant Roberston has previously been involved within the PSA. The CTU is currently involved in several workers rights campaigns, trying to protect wage bargaining rights, prevent further public service staffing and capacity cutbacks which will damage service provision, and particularly the plight of low-income workers. Pay equity is certainly an issue for lesbians, bisexual women and transwomen as well as their straight sisters and it is also involved with solidarity work with independent Iraqi and Burmese trade unionists. Added to which, there are the perennial issues of provisional ninety day employment legislation and trade union branch organisation and site access. Given that the Key administration intends to further cut social services in the name of international debt relief, there will probably be further attacks on union membership rights and freedom of association, political beliefs and freedom of speech, although the probable demise of ACT will impede the Key administration's agenda. Transgender workers may be particularly vulnerable in this context due to their unrelieved experiences of educational and employment disruption. Unfortunately, the Key administration does not intend to concretely add gender identity to the Human Rights Act and is relying on the Clark administration's Crown Law Office legal opinion that gender identity is a subcategory of gender and therefore transgender workers are protected from employment discrimination (and accomodation and goods and services provision discrimination). I should also mention the Unite independent trade union in this context, which organises low income workers, especially many takatapui and whakawahine workers on minimum wage levels. The Key administration should not be entrusted with an absolute parliamentary majority, given the massive social disruption that ensued in the nineties when that last happened under Ruth Richardson's New Right charnel house economics. In order to insure that there is forward momentum for LGBT workplace rights, and preservation of our existing gains, LGBT communities and individuals need to support trade unions in their battle for better pay, occupational health and safe working conditions, and other aspects of workers rights. Recommended: CTU Out at Work: Unite union: Craig Young - 10th August 2011    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 10th August 2011 - 2:55pm

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