A Woman’s Place is in her UNION

A Woman's Place is in her UNION

Following the recent vote at TUC conference in favour of a motion supporting self-declaration of gender, we have been asked by women how best they can take this issue up within their own union.

This policy was decided after debating Motion 41. You can find all the motions here.

There was also a statement made by the General Council about this Motion. We note and welcome the TUC’s commitment to retaining the 2010 Equality Act including the single sex exemptions.

We cannot find this statement online so we have posted screen shots at the bottom of this post after the text of Motion 41. We will post a link when we have one.

If you are a member of a union:

1. Write to your union to express your concerns. You should send your letter to the General Secretary and Women’s/Equality Officers.

Use their names or direct emails if you have them.

If not, use this link to find the contact email and mark for their attention in the subject box.

Unite the Union’s email is not listed but their website gives this contact email for the Executive.

What you should ask:

  • What is the Union’s policy on this issue?
  • How was this policy made and when?
  • What efforts were made to involve the mass of members in coming to this position (in particular, those with other protected characteristics and, especially, women)?
  • How was the decision made to support this particular motion at TUC?
  • Was any dissent expressed by members of the delegation?
  • Were those members encouraged or enabled to register that dissent?
  • How can members register their concerns about the impact on their rights and in society?
  • How can members feed into the Union’s submission to the GRA consultation?
  • How can members seek to influence policy on this issue?
    • local/workplace structures
    • mechanisms for changing policy

2. The TUC has stated that “it will support the right of all women (including trans women) to safe spaces and the continuation of monitoring that can help identify discrimination against women and men.”

Email the TUC at this address and mark for the attention of Frances O’Grady & the Women’s Officer). Ask:

  • How will the TUC support these rights if self-identification becomes law?
  • How will the TUC:
    • monitor and challenge discrimination?
    • campaign on equal pay?
    • create safe and private spaces with clear boundaries where they are necessary in the workplace and in society generally
      • If your place of work has a particular need for sex-segregated spaces, for example changing areas or showers, please explain why these are of value to female workers.

3. Write to the members of the TUC Women’s Committee using this link and mark your email for the attention of the Members of the TUC Women’s Committee. Ask:

  • Share your thoughts/concerns/questions with the committee
  • How have their voices been included in this discussion?
  • What role they have had in developing TUC policy on this issue?
  • What role they will have in the TUC submission to the GRA consultation?

4. Talk to other members in your workplace about the concerns that you have and refer them to sources of information about women’s concerns:

5. Table a motion in your workplace/branch/regional structure. We will be posting a template for you to adapt soon.

Speak to members in other branches and get them to do the same. To get the policy changed nationally you will need lots of support.

6. Find out how to get the motion on to the agenda of your policy making conference. It will differ depending on the union.  This information should be available on your union’s website or you could ask your workplace or local branch rep.

7. Stand for positions of power. Unions have many roles that you can take up including reps for workplace, health and safety, equality, learning and others. There are also local and national roles you could put yourself forward for.

Find out how to do it. 

This information should be available on your union’s website or you could ask your workplace or local branch rep.

8. Complete your own submission to the GRA so that your individual voice is heard too. Our guidance on what you might want to raise is here.

If you are not a member of a union, consider joining one.

It might seem counterintuitive, but this is the time to join the trade union movement. You can find out which unions operate in your sector here.

Despite the vote at the TUC, there is growing concern at the impact of self-declaration on the rights of others with protected characteristics. Privately, lots of people are expressing these concerns. They will be more prepared to express them publicly if they feel they are not alone.

Women fought for sex discrimination law through their trade unions, sometimes against great opposition but they did not give up. The rights women have are only in existence because of trade union and feminist campaigning. We cannot give up now.

Every generation, we have to remind the movement that it is our movement too.

  • The trade union movement was started by women workers
  • Women make up the majority of members
  • Women have the most to gain from being members and the most to lose from its demise.

We would urge you to join a union and be part of influencing policy – not just on this issue but on all issues of concern to women.

It is only by making your voice heard that your voice will count.

We think that some trade union officials and reps are beginning to understand the issues are more complex than they initially appear.

You can help them get their policy right for women and for all members of the movement.

Join a union for a year and see what we can collectively achieve…




Motion 41 Support for gender self-declaration

Congress notes the announcement on 3 July by the government that it will, finally, be holding a consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004.
As trade unionists we support trans workers rights, and as champions of equality we welcome the increased visibility and empowerment of transgendered and nonbinary people in our society.

Congress calls on the government to take note of global best practice on gender recognition and to change the current processes for gender recognition that are lengthy, intrusive, humiliating and not fit for purpose.

Congress calls on the General Council to campaign for a simplified, free, statutory gender-recognition process based on self-declaration and to support rights for gender non-binary people at work and in wider society.

Congress welcomes the government’s commitment that the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 will remain. We support the right of all women (including trans women) to safe spaces and the continuation of monitoring that can help identify discrimination against women and men.

Congress looks forward to the introduction of a social rather than medical model of gender recognition that will help challenge repressive gender stereotypes in the workplace and in society.

Moved: TUC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender+ Conference

Seconded: ASLEF


TUC General Council Statement on Motion 41

“Unions draw our power from our members’ strength in workplaces.

But our members’ lives do not stop at the workplace door.

The campaign for justice in wider society is also at the heart of this movement.

Our responsibility to promote equality is written into the TUC’s rules. That guides everything we do. So we must strive to end all forms of discrimination, bigotry and stereotyping.

This motion, from the TUC’s LGBT+ conference, addresses the government’s consultation on possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

The motion sets out the trade union movement’s role as champions of equality, including equality for trans and non-binary people. It recognises the need to change the process for gender recognition, which is often lengthy, humiliating and expensive.

The motion also recognises the absolute right of women to safe spaces and reaffirms the TUC’s support for the Equality Act 2010.

But, as is so often with this government, the handling of this consultation has been one almighty mess. Ministers first announced potential changes to the GRA back in 2017. There was a big media fanfare but precious little detail about the government’s thinking on proposals for change.

Publication of the consultation was delayed until this summer. So, that left a massive vacuum. And during that time, some of the debate around gender recognition, in some quarters, became bitterly divisive.

Our strength as a trade union movement depends on bringing people together to share experiences and to build bridges, rooted in our values of equality and the real experiences of working people’s lives.

And, let me say very clearly, the trade union movement opposes any violence or intimidation, bullying or disrespect, towards any group that faces discrimination, and from whatever quarter.

Trans people face physical and verbal abuse, prejudice and discrimination, marginalisation and misrepresentation. Unions have worked hard in recent years to provide practical support and guidance for reps and trans members, and I know unions’ commitment to this work will continue.

The fight for women’s rights is far from won. For too many women sexual harassment and domestic violence is a daily reality, alongside unequal pay and other forms of discrimination at work and in society. Unions will always campaign to protect the rights of working women.

I’m proud that that ethos of respect has guided our discussions on this issue through our TUC equality structures. I want to record the General Council’s thanks to our advisory committees for their hard work, advice and guidance.

We all agree that reform of the GRA has the potential to make progressive change to benefit all workers. One group’s gain need not be another’s loss. On the contrary, we must resist attempts to turn people against one another, and instead find common cause. I look forward to a debate in that spirit.

The General Council is recommending support for this motion with this explanation.”






We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.