Trade Unions

Trade Unions

Lots of unions are adopting policy on sex and gender. It is not clear how widely they have consulted their members or if they realise that this is something that members feel strongly about.

Unions should also be taking up matters of concern to women members (for example equal pay, sexual harassment, and pensions).

Make sure your union is working for you.

Unions work best when they fully represent the diverse range of their members, their experiences and their views.

In the long term, the best way to make that happen is to become actively involved.

Ask your workplace rep how you can participate or visit the Union’s website.

In the short term, if you want to raise a question or concern about what is happening then these are some steps you could follow:

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 can members seek to influence policy on this issue?
    • local/workplace structures
    • mechanisms for changing policy

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

3. Table a motion in your workplace/branch/regional structure.

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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Share our open letter to the TUC challenging their open letter promoting inaccuracies about ‘sex’ in the Equality Act. You can read it here.

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

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

There is growing concern at the impact of gender 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…



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.