My Pledges on Equality

Women, young, black, disabled and LGBT+ workers are hardest hit by pay cuts. If we are to ensure that we are a high density and high participation union, then we need to understand and embrace our own diversity in our collective power to fightback. 

Take the example of menstrual dignity. Tampons and towels are as necessary as loo roll and soap in workplace toilets. While every menstruating or peri-menopausal woman can be caught out at work without adequate provision, there is a growing shame of period poverty. Years of pay cuts now flood shameful indignity and health dangers at work for those women workers who cannot afford these products.  

Women make up 60% of PCS members, so period poverty is a factor in our national campaign on pay. With only 45% of our reps being women, and two thirds of the NEC and group executives being men, understanding of and relevance of an issue like period dignity might get unintentionally overlooked. 

Thankfully, our consultation on a rule change to ensure that at least 50% of our NEC are women is live. I believe this is a necessary first step to begin to rebalance women’s participation in all sections of our union. It is neither tokenistic, it is not a tick box exercise and nor should it be patronising. 

We really must ensure women are equally represented. What is patronising is to assume that ‘yet’ unknown women coming forward might somehow be politically inferior to current male occupants.

I have been very vocal in the wider trade union movement in my Step Aside Brother campaign.  I argue that rule changes and policies alone do not bring about real and lasting equality, diversity and full inclusion.  Overcoming barriers to participation is the collective responsibility of us all. Women, black members, disabled, LGBT+ and young members will continue to be excluded unless we provide an inclusive space, real opportunities and genuine participation on equal terms.  

Our strength must build on the diversity of our membership.  I firmly believe that when workers understand and believe in their own power, they rise. However, if workers do not see the union structures reflecting their diversity, they become disempowered and disengaged. 

No one openly advocates that disability, sexuality or age should exclude workers from participating in their union.  Yet it does!  Class, gender and race must not be contested grounds for participation either.  Inclusion is a workers necessity in their trade union, not an abstract middle class liberal concept. 

Unless we just want to talk the talk, leadership is necessary to actively challenge the status quo and root out persistent under-representation.  It means real change, opening up our union structures and decision-making to those most impacted.  Politically that requires collective commitment and sometimes personal sacrifice to ensure greater diversity in participation of others.

If elected as AGS, I pledge to:

  • Put into practice our aim to have equality at the heart of everything we do by rigorous equalities testing and impact assessment on our priority strategies

  • Prioritise inclusive workplace organising targeted at increasing the diversity of active members and advocates, amplifying those voices which are often marginalised 

  • Review barriers to participation in our democracy and structures and develop measures to promote inclusion at all levels of the union

  • Act firmly to root out racism, both structural and systematic alongside any other form of discrimination.

  • Introduce a mentoring programme for reps to work with members from under-represented backgrounds to encourage greater diversity in succession-planning

  • Develop an AGS shadowing scheme for young members 

lynn henderson