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From: The Socialist issue 677, 29 June 2011: Next Step: One-Day Public Sector Strike

Search site for keywords: LGBT - FBU - Pride - Gay

Trade unionists must fight for LGBT rights

Greg Randall
Socialist Party LGBT group convenor

LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual and trans) firefighters organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are refusing to march at Pride London on Saturday 2 July under the banner of their employer, the London Fire Brigade.

The FBU say that the bosses have backtracked on commitments to LGBT rights in the workplace, including withdrawing from the gay rights organisation Stonewall's Equality Index, a register of "gay friendly" employers.

Instead, FBU members will join the unions' section of the Pride march. Pat Carberry, the FBU LGBT secretary, told Pink News: "Equality no longer features in the services commitment. It would be wrong of us to march alongside this organisation promoting a visual front that the service is committed to serving our community when in reality no progress is being made and if anything it's actually getting worse."

This matches the experience in other workplaces. Until last year British Airways was a prominent sponsor of Pride, but during the cabin crew strikes in 2010 the same BA workers, who had been marching under the BA banner, were on picket lines at Heathrow. BA was nowhere to be seen at Pride last year.

An FBU LGBT rep told the Socialist Party's LGBT group: "Management don't want to be told by FBU LGBT trade unionists how to do their jobs - they'd much prefer to pay loads of public money out to what they see as a more 'independent' bunch of LGBT advisors, and ignore what we, the workers, tell them.

"On the back of budget cuts a few brigades think they're clued up enough now to go it alone now, so are removing themselves from the Stonewall index.

"It is a direct step towards side-lining the FBU's LGBT sections. They are trying to subvert the process of LGBT consultation to replace it with a more 'organisationally acceptable' way of doing things. This is an effort to train those who want promotion to quietly brush under the carpet cases of organisational repression, endemic homophobia, and harassment both direct and indirect, in the vain hope of staving off what they see as the real problem - a financial risk to the organisation by the possibility of getting sued by an LGBT employee. I can't remember anyone dialling 999 and asking for an equalities officer!"

The bosses can't be trusted. The coalition's vicious cuts endanger the gains that LGBT people have made in past years, and workers in their unions, with the LGBT sections to the forefront, must be ready to take action to defend and extend these gains.

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