Sunday, 10 February 2013

Press release from General Secretary candidate Jerry Hicks

Historic vote for right of Gay marriage mirrors Unites values and policies

This month is LGBT history month, and the recent vote in the House of Commons in favour of gay marriage certainly was a ‘history making’ moment. It marks another important milestone in the path towards LGBT equality since 1967 when sex between two men was no longer a criminal offence. Every step that breaks down the institutionalised discrimination of people based on their sexual or gender orientation is a step forward for everyone.
Unite UK’s biggest Trade Union with 1.5 million members celebrates LGBT History month with various events around the country and it’s equalities structures show that equality is not just an ‘add on’ extra to industrial work.
Jerry Hicks a candidate in the election for Unite General Secretary said “In today’s workforce, which is more diverse than ever, equalities issues are industrial issues. We want to create working environments where everyone, regardless of how they define their sexuality or gender, feels comfortable in ‘coming out’ and can do so without fear of bullying, recrimination or discrimination.
Jerry Hicks added “The vote in favour of gay marriage moves that forward, but we should not underestimate the work it has taken to get this far and how much more work still remains to be done. Activists had to fight within the trade union movement itself for equality issues to be taken seriously”.
Now many unions in Britain have structures and conferences especially dedicated to this area of work. But we cannot be complacent as they still remain vulnerable.  Just last year we saw the Fire Brigades Union conference vote to remove guaranteed voting rights for minority constituencies.
But the parliamentary vote also reveals a darker side. It should surprise no one that a large hard core of Tories voted against equal marriage. But what is more disturbing is that 23 Labour MPs also voted against the bill, and those included Unite supported MP’s.
Bills concerning issues of equality, such as LGBT rights, abortion rights, are said to be down to ‘individual conscience’. This can result in a bigoted view being masked. However, for Unite, the fight for equality is not a ‘take it or leave it’ option, it is a core part of our union policy.
Jerry Hicks was scathing when he said “This is just one more example of where Unite backed MPs are happy to take the union’s support and money, whilst actively voting in opposition to our own core principles. It is simply no longer acceptable to continue in this way.
We need to know is what steps Unite took with respect to this vote to make sure our MPs understood the importance we place on equality issues. What Unite is now doing to let them know how disappointed members will be. And what Unite intends doing from now on to make sure that Unite backed MP’s reflect, fight, and vote, for legislation in line with all of Unite’s policies.

Notes to Editor: Jerry Hicks was unlawfully sacked by Rolls Royce in 2005. He is on the now infamous illegal blacklist of workers and is among 100 other in a class action High Court case represented by Guney Clark & Ryan Solicitors.

Unite is currently holding an election for its General Secretary, in which there are only two candidates, Jerry Hicks and Len  McCluskey.

Jerry Hicks was runner up in Unites General Secretary election of 2010 beating two Assistant General Secretaries and securing 52,527 votes.

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