We need to put an ‘e’ for equality into our work in promoting quality public service, said participants at a sexual diversity forum for and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people (LGBT) preceding the 28th Public Services International World Congress in Vienna Sept. 24-28.
If public services are privatized, governments lose accountability for what occurs in those workplaces, said Sarah Belanger, a Canadian delegate at the quality public services workshop. We need to ensure that they don’t privatize and that we don’t lose that accountability for ensuring quality services and equality in their delivery.
Workshop participants agreed that an equality assessment tool would be useful in forcing governments and other public employers to examine and assess the impact of policies on everyone.
There is a need to show governments that the cost of providing services to all is less than the cost of dealing with a crisis, said a delegate from the United Kingdom. For example, if an LGBT person is treated equally in a hospital, the cost of treating that a problem likely will be cheaper than if the problem is left to a later date.
Colombian LGBT workers suffer worst violence
Violence against LGBT people in Colombia was a focus of the inter-Americas workshop and the group heard a call for assistance to improve human rights for LGBT people throughout the inter-Americas region.
Systematic violence faces LGBT people in Colombia. Trade unionists also face the same violence. A recent International Trade Union Council survey shows that the Latin American country holds the world’s record for most trade union killings deaths in 2006.
“We need to recognize that sexual assault is a political issue in Colombia and that the ombudsman’s office must document cases of violations against LGBT people,” said Daniel Coronado, a Colombian delegate and vice-president of the union of ombudsman’s office workers (ASDEP). “Public defenders must defend the human rights of LGBT people, but they are intimidated.”
Unions should support those in Colombia who are fighting for the inclusion of LGBT rights in anti-discrimination and human rights legislation and declarations, PSI Inter-Americas regional secretary Dr. Jocelio Drummond told the workshop.
Porto Alegre progress praised, next steps identified
The progress made at the first LGBT forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, was acknowledged by participants at this second forum and they praised “Trade Unionists Together for LGBT Rights”, the document that emerged from that meeting.
The Vienna forum will recommend to the PSI and Education International executives that they promote the use of that document. They will further recommend that PSI and EI:
- Strengthen and enhance activities relating to LGBT issues at the regional level;
- Promote and enhance the new web site www.psi-world.org/lgbt to include best practices, collective agreements and successful legal activities;
- Continue and enhance interaction with the United Nations’ International Labour Organization and other international agencies and organizations;
- Increase the visibility of transgender equality;
- Promote LGBT rights in the quest for quality public services;
- Continuing to promote networking; and,
- Continue to hold LGBT forums in the future.
Vienna’s LGBT city workers’ rights improving
Vienna’s LGBT city workers have seen some improvement in their rights since the city began to acknowledge the need for change in the late 1990s, said Angela Schwarz in an overview of LGBT rights in Vienna at a plenary session of the LGBT sexual diversity forum.
In 1971, homosexuality was illegal in the city. Since then, city council has adopted a fair treatment approach and improved its anti-discrimination policy and closer cooperation with an “ombudsperson for equal treatment.”
For example, since 1999 city workers have been able to use sick leave to care for an ill partner. Since 2003, they have been able to take unpaid leave of up to six months to care for a sick or dying partner.
As well, same-sex couples are officially recognized as foster parents. If you register a partnership in another country, it is recognized in Vienna. Trans people are acknowledged in city personnel departments. And LGBT sensitivity training is mandatory for all apprentices.
Vienna employs 40,000 municipal workers and 30,000 health care workers.
Send your ant-discrimination posters to Berlin
To add your union’s anti-discrimination posters to a collection, send them to Colin de la Molte-Sherman, Helsingforser Str. 39, D-10243 Berlin, Germany.