The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called for the end of religious exemptions at its triennial congress.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) met with the ACTU ahead of the congress, which took place in the lead-up to the release of the Religious Freedom Review chaired by Philip Ruddock.

 “There are over 200,000 jobs in Australia that a worker can be fired from if they come out at work,” VGLRL co-convenor Dale Park said.

“This limits their safety, well-being, productivity and ability to access standard workers rights and entitlements.

“For example, some workers will avoid taking carer’s leave to look after their sick partner or, even worse, taking bereavement leave to attend their partner’s funeral because they may face the sack,” Park said.

“We need to change the rules that allow certain employers to fire staff based on their sexuality or gender identity.

“We applaud Australian unions for backing the campaign to change the rules on workplace discrimination.

“Now our political leaders must commit to scrapping these loopholes in the Fair Work Act and to protect workers’ rights at work.

“In particular, the upcoming Labor National Conference provides a key opportunity for the political arm of the labour movement to commit to protecting workers from workplace discrimination.”

During the postal survey last year, the Catholic Church indicated they may fire staff who entered into same-sex marriages.

A gay teacher was fired from a school in Perth after coming out last year, and Labor indicated they would maintain the laws in place which allow such firings to occur.

42 per cent of teachers in New South Wales said they have faced harassment or discrimination for being LGBTI.

May*, a woman who was employed by a Christian welfare agency for two years, said she was asked to resign after they found out about her relationship with her partner.

“I resigned and fell apart after having served that community for years… I can’t express the devastating impact that being asked to resign had on my life,” she said.

“I lost everything – my vocation, faith, community – and had to rebuild myself from a very broken place.”

The congress adopted a number of policies aimed at reducing discrimination against LGBTI workers, including pushing for worplace agreements to recognise the needs of trans and gender diverse workers.

The new policies also look to encourage unions to removing gendered language on parental and carers leave clauses, and encouraging unions to fight for adoption and surrogate leave clauses as well as LGBTI liaison portfolio.

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