Members and allies of the LGBT community populate every sector and every union throughout the world; studies to determine the percent of the population who are LGBT suggest that there are least about a million LGBT members in UNI Global Union and that likely there are millions more. Workers with different sexual orientations or gender identities are particularly vulnerable to violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice in the workplace.
For example, a 2009 survey UNI Global Union’s affiliate, PSEU (Ireland) found that 67% of LGBT members believed there was a lack of awareness on LGBT issues and over half of the LGBT members feared unfair treatment because of their sexual orientation. One member reported how an “immediate superior in my previous department told me that gay people were animals and they had no right to life, let alone any other rights.”
It is important to note that this survey was undertaken in a country with a relatively high level of legal protections and policies for LGBT people. However, in other countries LGBT members can face being fired, imprisonment, corporal punishment or being killed. For example, in Malaysia a LGBT person can be imprisoned for 20 years because of their sexual orientation.
The bottom line is that LGBT people are everywhere and if heterosexism or homophobia are allowed to flourish, divisions and problems are created to the extent that workers can never be effectively organised. Therefore, it is at the heart of UNI Global Union’s mission to start breaking through this discrimination and violence against workers of different sexual orientations or gender identities and to fight for equality for all workers.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Persons with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population. When referring to disability, we refer to those impairments that hinder full participation in society. The impairment might be physical, mental, sensory or intellectual, and could be acquired at birth, later in life, or through accident or disease. Barriers might be attitudinal or environmental, and often these barriers are socially constructed in some sense.
Disability is not just something about an individual who needs to change, it is present in social factors, and all stakeholders have a role in changing these social factors.
In many parts of the world and in many contexts, disability is often understood as “inability to work”. But the truth is that persons with disabilities have shown they can work productively in all sectors and contexts.
As trade unions we have the possibility to promote and develop alliances that will help reach the goal of decent work; as well as develop strategies and actions to raise awareness on the need for inclusion of people with disabilities at the workplace.
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA
Millions of workers throughout world experience discrimination because of their race, colour, nationality, or ethnicity. Globalization has caused a drastic increase in the number of migrant workers and unfortunately leaves them especially vulnerable; the ILO estimates that in 2010 there were 214 million migrants worldwide and only 105 million were employed. This increase in migration has led to greater racial and ethnic diversity within society and the workplace and thus has increased racial tensions.
Racism and xenophobia threatens social stability and impedes the operation of the economy; it poisons solidarity by forming divisions among members, in the workplace, and in society. On the other hand, fighting racism and xenophobia present a powerful organizing opportunity to engage a wider membership around the world.
Breaking through racism and xenophobia requires consistent support on all levels, from the individual, the national, and the international community. Therefore, UNI Global Union is committed to eradicating inequality among its members based on the difference between race, religion, colour, nationalities or ethnicity.