Trade unionism is all about getting organised, and organising around equality is a vital way for underrepresented groups to increase their voice both at work and within the union. On Friday 13 October 2023, our Equality Conference was an opportunity for activists and members from across the region to come together and equip themselves with the tools and resources necessary to raise awareness of equality issues in the workplace.
As this year’s Conservative conference demonstrated, the Tory party are working hard to roll back the hard-won rights of trans people in British society. Trade unions have an important role to play in resisting this – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because trans rights are workers’ rights. An important step towards this is ensuring trade unionists understand how to be good trans allies, the theme of one of the conference’s workshops, lead by UNISON South East’s Michael Etheridge.
A session on race was delivered by guest speaker Mervin Taylor from the Diversity Trust. Taking place during Black History Month, in UNISON’s Year of the Black Worker, it was appropriate that the workshop focused on issues facing the Black community – historically and in the present day – and looked at practical steps activist can take to fight racism and racial inequality in their workplaces.
This topic continued in a closing panel discussion and Q&A chaired by Regional Convenor Rosita Ellis, with Margaret Greer (UNISON National Race Equality Officer), Sandra Charles (UNISON South East Deputy Regional Convenor), Manjula Kumari (UNISON NEC member), and Annette Heslop (National Black Members Committee member) all sharing stories of their respective journeys to UNISON. From joining up over a workplace issue to finding the confidence to get more involved, all four women – and the chair – brought an inspirational end to a thought-provoking day, reminding us that equality is union business – we’re stronger when we fight oppression together.