A meeting of lesbian and gay trade union representatives held just before the Gay Games has called upon two international workers organisations to create an ongoing forum on LGBTI worker issues.
The second international Workers Out! conference recommended that Education International and Public Services International use their resources to establish the new forum. Conference delegates also called upon the two organisations to report on the implementation of this recommendation and the work of this platform to their affiliate trade union members.
Delegates heard from the general secretary of Education International, Fred Van Leeuwen, at the opening plenary of the conference (which was chaired by Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions).
Van Leeuwen said that the eradication of discrimination based on sexual orientation had been a constitutional aim of Education International since 1998, but that only a minority of member organisations are involved in actively defending those rights.
Delegates should not underestimate the effort required to include statements about sexual orientation in union resolutions, Van Leeuwen warned. He said that at the 1998 Education International world congress a resolution affirming the right of teachers to be open about their sexuality in the workplace would have been rejected by conference delegates if Burrow had not proposed an alternative form of words affirming the right of teachers not to hide their sexuality in the workplace.
Schools are the very last bastions where gays and lesbians will be accepted with societal blessings, he said.