Big rise in number of unions reaching out to LGBT workers

LGBT in employmentHalf of all Trades Union Congress (TUC) affiliated unions are running targeted recruitment campaigns at LGBT workers, an increase from 38 per cent of unions in 2011, according to the 2014 Equality Audit published yesterday (9 September).

The audit, which this year looks at the steps unions are taking to ensure they reflect the diversity of the workforces they represent, examines union structures, union reps and targeted recruitment campaigns.

The audit, based on the responses of 36 unions who represent over 5.6 million members, shows that more unions are taking specific action to encourage under-represented groups into membership, compared to previous years.

Most unions now specifically target young workers, while the most striking area of growth has been recruitment campaigns aimed at LGBT workers.

The TUC audit finds that women and black and Asian workers are well-represented or even over-represented among learning and equality reps. However, they continue to be under-represented – relative to the proportion of women and black or Asian union members – among shop stewards, health and safety reps, branch officers, conference delegates and union executives.

The audit shows that unions are now more likely to carry out equality monitoring than in 2011 to check how representative their membership is. Almost half (47 per cent) the unions monitor disability and almost a third (31 per cent) monitor the LGBT status of their members. This suggests a growing confidence among unions in discussing these issues, says the TUC.

Other findings from the audit include:

– More unions employ equality officers at national level – 69 per cent reported having an officer to the 2014 survey, compared to 58 per cent in 2011.

– Half the unions now have trained equality reps in workplaces and branches.

– The number of unions holding a young members’ conference has increased from 33 per cent in 2011 to 47 per cent in 2014.

Whilst a minority of unions use reserved seats to improve representation at senior levels, the fact that a number of the largest unions do so means that 61 per cent of members are in a union with reserved seats for women on their executives.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The latest equality audit shows that unions are making welcome progress in ensuring that they better reflect the members they represent.

“As the UK workforce becomes increasingly diverse, it’s encouraging that more unions are using targeted recruitment drives to reach out to different kinds of workers. The big push to recruit more LGBT members is particularly striking.

“There is clearly more work to do in improving the representation of women, young workers and black and Asian employees at senior levels. But the audit shows that in many unions work is well underway and things are changing.

“A key task we face is to grow our ranks of equality reps and to get them the recognition and rights that other reps have. These people are effective in promoting equality in the workplace and preventing discrimination and harassment – but we need employers to recognise and properly support them.”

* The Equality Audit 2014 is available at




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