TUC LGBT Conference 2013 - RMT delegates report

Delegates to this year’s 2-day TUC lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Conference 2013 (27th/28th June) discussed a wide range of issues including homophobic hate crime, International LGBT rights, resisting the government’s austerity policy, solidarity for transgender workers, homophobia in sport, and young homeless LGBT people. The conference was well attended, with over 200 delegates. 4 RMT delegates attended the conference, plus a retired RMT member observer.

Both RMT motions sent to this year’s conference carried unanimous.
RMT’s first motion demanded justice for Steven Simpson, a gay autistic student who was killed in June 2012 on the night of his 18th birthday party. Steven was verbally abused, stripped, and his body scrawled with offensive slogans. He was doused in tanning oil and his 20-year-old killer set fire to his crotch with a cigarette lighter. The flames engulfed his body and Steven died the next day suffering 60% burns. The killing of Steven Simpson was clearly a hate crime motivated by his sexual orientation and disability. But the judge, Roger Keen, did not see it this way, and dismissed the crime as ‘good-natured horseplay’ and a ‘stupid prank that had gone too far’. Steven’s killer was sentenced to an unusually short sentence of just three and a half years in prison.

Moving the RMT motion, Brother Mujahid made clear that a ‘stupid prank’ is knocking on someone’s door and running away, or shaving off your mate’s eyebrows on their stag night. “This was not a stupid prank”, he said, “this was a murder fuelled by homophobia and prejudice against disabled people”.

A motion on the killing of Steven Simpson was also discussed and carried unanimously at the TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference 2013. Following that conference, Peter Purton, TUC LGBT and Disability Officer, sent a letter to the Attorney General, signed by the TUC General Secretary, condemning Judge Keen's appalling comments and the lenient sentence given to Steven's killer. The TUC received a reply advising we were out of time – appeals against sentences have to be lodged within 30 days of the court hearing (which was on 21 March), but that because others had already written (i.e. through the Disability Hate Crime Network) the case had been referred to the Court of Appeal to consider whether the sentence had been “unduly lenient”. That appeal was heard on 6 June and judgment was reserved – we still await a response.

RMT’s second motion to conference called on the TUC to support campaigns against homophobia around the world; raise the issue of LGBT rights at international events; build solidarity links with LGBT rights campaigners and trade unionists around the world; support and mobilize for appropriate protest actions; and support LGBT people facing deportation to countries where they face homophobic or transphobic persecution.

Conference speakers included Labour MP and Shadow Leader of the House Angela Eagle, and Michael Rubinstein editor of ‘Equal Opportunity Law Reports’ and similar publications, who gave a presentation on recent legal cases relating to LGBT rights.

On Friday an informal plenary discussion was held on ‘Winning LGBT rights in Europe with Cinzia Sechi of ETUC, Louise Ashworth of ILGA Europe, Renata Tretiakova of CGT and Stephen Whittle of Press for Change. Conference was also addressed by Antony Smith of Age UK.

There was a fringe meeting for black delegates during the break of the Thursday session, which was attended by RMT delegates.

Addressing conference, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady condemned government attacks on vital workplace protections for LGBT people. She said, “This government is happy to be seen as a champion of equal marriage.” “However, it is axing vital legal protections for gay and lesbian employees because they are a ‘burden’ on business.”
Ms O’Grady added, “The government’s austerity measures are having a severe impact on Britain’s LGBT communities.
“Real-term cuts to the NHS are undermining a range of services, including the care provided to transsexual people.
“Massive cuts to the police service mean that fewer resources are being given to fighting hate crime when and where it occurs.”

21 motions were discussed at the conference. All motions passed passed.

• LGBT Rights – NASUWT
• Pay and Pride – Unison
• Keeping the pressure up – campaigning for equality for LGBT workers in tough times – NUT
• Supporting LGBT member with mental health problems – USDAW
• Support in education – ATL
• Hate crime – PCS
• Same sex domestic violence – ASLEF
• Improved access to HIV testing – Community
• Homophobia in sport – CWU
• Tackling Homophobia – Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
• Equal marriage campaign and media coverage – NUJ
• Coalition government attack on union facility time – POA
• Continuing to advance equality – UCU
• Ex-gay adverts on London buses – NAPO
• Support for young homeless LGBT people – Unite the union
• Maximising social media to progress LGBT agenda – GMB
• LGBT equality in the Channel Islands – Prospect
• International LGBT rights – RMT
• The Arab Spring: challenging homophobia and transphobia
• LGBT Rights in Russia - Equity
• LGBT Freelancers working abroad – Musicians’ Union
There were three emergency resolutions:
• Solidarity for trans workers – NUT
• Justice for Steven Simpson – RMT
• Promoting LGBT rights internationally – PCS