UNISON will put equalities at the heart of its bargaining
agenda and will campaign with the TUC and through Labour
Link for facility time for equality reps. Conference
recognised that austerity has rolled back equality successes
and significantly increased workplace inequality.
Supporting the motion on Friday on behalf of the NEC,
Scotland’s Davena Rankin said, “Maya Angelou
once said: ‘It is impossible to struggle for civil
rights, equal rights for Blacks, without including whites.
Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like
the air: we all have it, or none of us have it. That
is the truth of it.’”
Since the election of the coalition government in 2011,
equalities have been under sustained attack. “Cameron’s
legacy will be one of increased inequality and reduced
access to justice for workers,” slammed Davena.
She told conference that equality reps were uniquely
placed to promote fairness in our workplaces - able
to raise the equality agenda with their colleagues,
their employers and within UNISON.
“They can help to support and encourage employers
to make equality and diversity part of mainstream collective
bargaining and policy development.”
She pointed out, however, that their value shines through
when they are working with vulnerable workers and working
to ensure that every worker receives fair treatment
irrespective of gender, race, disability, religion,
age, gender reassignment or sexual orientation and called
for equality reps to be properly supported and recognised.
“Despite the playing such a vital role in our
workplaces, equality reps have no legal right to time
off to undertake their trade union equality duties.
“This matter is especially important for UNISON
given that 78% of our members are women, a significant
number of whom are low paid. The lack of equality facility
time is therefore indirectly discriminatory as responsibility
for caring for children and relatives still fall in
the main to women making a work, life, trade union balance
UNISON’s own work on Challenging Racism in the
Workplace has found that for Black activists, the lack
of equality time hinders their ability to challenge
discrimination. The lack of equality time also lowers
the profile and protection of disability and LGBT equality
work and Davena warned that this threatens to undermine
the trade union movement’s historic achievements.
TUC research has shown that the lack of facility time
severely limited the effectiveness of the reps, even
though equality reps greatly enhance employers' equalities
work and have a positive impact in the workplace to
the extent that even some employers recognise their
“It also found that the role of equality rep
was a first step for many members on their journey to
becoming an activist,” said Davena’
“UNISON has been at the forefront in campaigning
for equality facility time. The NEC believes that it
is essential that equality reps have recognised facility
time to do this important work and ask that you join
with us to take the fight for statutory recognition
for our equality reps to the government.
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘We may encounter
many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ We
must continue this fight for recognition until we win.”