Equality in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation is still far to be reached. Heterosexuality is so embedded in workplace culture – regarded as natural and even desirable –  that LGBTQi (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) workers still face unimaginable discrimination in their day-to-day work and personal life.

As trade unions, we can’t hide in silence.  When fighting for the protection and equality of workers, trade unions have the responsibility to challenge any discrepancy in rights based on sexual orientation. As part of EFFAT’s commitment to forging decent working conditions, EFFAT together with the IUF and PRO-GE co-organised the first of four side meetings in the build-up to EFFAT Congress on 4 November: Combating Discrimination – Inclusion and Workplace Rights for EFFAT LGBTQI workers.

Trade unions have a key role to play towards the advancement of LGBTQi rights at work through what they can do best: collective bargaining. For this reason, IUF and EFFAT took this opportunity to present to this meeting their brochure – Bargaining Demands for LGBTI workers – outlining the key demands for trade unions to pursue in the protection of LGBTQi rights at work:

  • Include gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation as prohibited grounds of discrimination and harassment.
  • Include strong anti-harassment and violence prevention and zero tolerance language that addresses homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism.
  • Treat same-sex and opposite-sex relationships the same. LGBTI workers and their families should have entitlements to equal benefits.
  • Develop and implement mandatory training for co-workers and managers on LGBTQi workers’ rights.  Protect the confidentiality of LGBTQi workers, prohibiting anyone from sharing information about a worker’s identity without the express permission of the individual.

In the Conference, EFFAT affiliates presented their experiences and shared best practice on activities already taking in place at the national level regarding LGBTQi workplace rights. We heard from Pilar Rato (CCOO Servicios, Spain), Francis Lamberg (Setca FBTG, Belgium), Gerhard Riess (Proge, Austria), Ken Clignez (LIVS, Sweden), and Ben Smets (FTB Horval, Belgium) – who shared his positive personal experience of being gay in the workplace, all the while reiterating the urgent need for all employees to be able to work in an environment which prioritises equal treatment.

In the concluding remarks, Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT General Secretary elect, gave a preview of how the important topic of LGBTQi rights at work will be at the core of the next EFFAT work program, in particular:

  • The theme will be a permanent item in the agenda of the EFFAT governing bodies meeting
  • EFFAT will continue to actively work with the IUF on the LGBTQi issues
  • EFFAT will continue to develop education and training materials for affiliates on the topic
  • EFFAT will seize the opportunity of European Pride celebration to voice the rights of LGBTQi workers
  • Bargaining demands will be further disseminated together with non-discrimination language.
  • EFFAT will global agreements with Transnational National Companies on the topic

The bargaining demands for LGBTI workers are also going to be presented to the next meeting of the IUF LGBTI Workers and Allies Committee in Barcelona on 13-14 November.