Check out Unite's equalities section

Open Unite's Charter for Women

Check out the TUC's equalities section

A few links to organisations that advise on equality rights


Peter Hain: The retiring hero who changed the course of history

The death of cricket legend Basil D'Oliveira reminds us how history turns on events that seem insignificant at the time, but have enormous consequences.

In 1968 a coloured South African born cricketer was included in the England squad, which was due to visit on a tour. The South African authorities considered this a serious threat to their apartheid regime. They began by offering D'Oliveira a £40,000 bribe to leave the squad and then tried to put pressure on the England selectors to drop him. England refused to do so and cancelled their tour. The publicity contributed to a ban on sporting teams visiting South Africa while apatheid remained.

Had governments shown more backbone, they would also have banned businesses from dealing with South Africa and apartheid would almost certainly have fallen sooner. However, the country's isolation from the rest of the sporting world left its citizens under no illusions that their political system was out of step with everyone else. It took another quarter of a century, but eventually the vote was extended to all adults, regardless of colour.

What would have happened if D'Oliveira had not been fit to joint he squad? Would the tour have gone ahead and a boycott not have happened for another five or ten years? Would Britain and the rest of the world have gone on turning a blind eye to apartheid? Who knows?

Jonathan Agnew's tribute to Basil D'Oliveira

20th November 2011  

Getting past the racial stereotypes - Why blacks are not better than whites at sprinting

An interesting article from the BBC. Our assumptions are based on the success or failure of a tiny sample of a population - and we transfer our expectations to a much wider range of people. Secondly, the "group" that most of us would label as "black" is incredibly diverse. Genetically and in terms of culture and religion, Africa has people that are far more different from each other than any Europeans. From the tallest to the shortest. From the civilisations of Egypt and Carthage to seafaring nations and to hunter-gatherers in the Khalahari - we should not assume a particular set of characteristic based of a label of colour. In fact even colour is not a reliable indicator, as some north Africans are paler than some south Europeans. An English "white" probably shares more of his or her genes with an English "black" than an Algerian does with an Angolan. So put your preconceptions aside and think again.

Equal Love – the law should recognise gay marriage and same-sex civil partnerships

Fight the cuts to disability allowance this week

This week, thousands of people are marching, emailing their MPs, phoning radio stations or writing to newspapers to complain about the attacks on benefits to disabled people. These cuts have already led to a number of suicides and high levels of hardship. This week's campaign will reach a peak on Wednesday (11th May) when activists are asked to do everything they can to make the public aware of what is happening and ask politicians to act.

The government attacks on disabled people are in two main ways. The first is an attack on the benefits themselves. Parts of the benefits for disabled people are being reduced, or being scrapped altogether, such as the Disability Mobility Allowance, which is paid to provide funds for disabled people to get out of their homes, which otherwise become little more than prisons to many of them. The second attack is by using a system of assessments to remove disbility benefits altogether. A private company called Atos conducts a brief test of disabled people's abilities - entirely without consultation with the subject's GP - and in many cases decides the individual is fit for work and removes their benefits. There have already been several cases where people have been stripped of their benefits and died shortly afterwards due to the severity of their conditions.

This campaign, "The Hardest Hit" is against a government's attampts to make the most vulnerable people in society pay for a deficit caused by the greed of the banks and the multi-nationals. Please lend your support. You can find out more at the following websites -

The Hardest Hit

The Hardest Hit (facebook page)

The Virtual Gherkin (facebook page)

Armchair Army (facebook page)

9th May 2011

Uganda to introduce death penalty this week for the "crime" of being gay

This week a bill to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death is due to be presented in Uganda. If signed by the President, hundreds of thousands of Ugandans will live in fear of their sexuality being reported to authorities. Please sign the petition before this law becomes a reality - which it could within 48 hours.

Sign the petition

8th May 2011

Pakistan allows transsexuals to have own gender category

New book documents women's key role in the workers' movement dating back to 1880's

Number of women on "dole" hits record high

TUC reports "Bleak employment prospects for young black workers"

Report by Which magazine criticises airport treatment of the disabled

New paternity leave rules come into force

Walmart sexism case reaches US supreme court. Highest ever discrimination payout possible

Should age stop us from being active? - Interview with 91 year old athlete Olga Kotelko

International Women's Week - Profile of Barbara Castle

90% of planning applications by Irish travellers are rejected as opposed to 20% average

Employers across Europe fail to develop careers of female staff

March 8th is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day

This week sees the 100th anniversay of International Women's Day, an event started by the Socialist Party of America. The first event was held in Germany in 1911. Find out more about women's struggle for votes and equal treatment and opportunity below -



2nd March 2011

England Wicket keeper Steven Davies announces that he is gay

In Britain, the world of professional sport is, after perhaps the church the last bastion of homophobia. Since footballer Justin Fashnu admitted that he was gay in 1990 and was subjected to a decade of abuse that contributed to his sicide, only one other professional sportman has "come out" - Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas. Steven Davies' decision to announce his sexuality is a brave and refreshing decision against the trend for sportspersons to remain silent - making it harder for others to be open and honest.

While some will react to the announcement with a "so what", it is important that other gay sports players have role models who are prepared to stand up. Many of us have little or no interest in the sex lives of sports men and women, including the heterosexual exploits of Beckham, Rooney and Terry, but we no human being should have to shroud who they are in secrecy for fear of the truth becoming known.


“Women have been side by side with men in demanding justice & rights for all in Arab region”

Proposed US law could see women face death sentence for miscarriages in Georgia

ITUC report from the UN Conference on the Status of Women

Disabled demo of company that decides whose benefits are stopped

A small group of disabled people assembled to protest outside the London headquarters of French company Atos, who designed a computer system for making an instant decision on whether people are too ill to work. Under the coalition proposals it seems likely that any disabled people judged by the software as "not disabled enough" will have their benefits stopped.

Despite the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, many companies are now employing fewer and fewer disabed staff, gambling that they will not be taken to employment tribunals or that their lawyers will be better than those who are denied employment opportunities. Many disabled feel that they are being squeezed betwwen employers that do not want to give them work and a government that would prefer they did not exist.

23rd February 2011  

Newsbeat - Action needed on forced marriage

A video in which a 15 year old tells how she was tricked into going abroad to visit her father, who she believed was sick, only to find that she was to be sold into a marriage to a man in his thirties who wanted to live in Britain.

"Glass ceiling" still stops women from getting top jobs

It's still a man's world

Unemployment for women rises by 12% as public sector cuts start to take effect

Huge cuts to funds to teach English for Speakers of Other Languages

British gay Muslims seek Islamic weddings

Prentis warns of NHS devastation

UN Women - 1 in 5 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime

Womens Views on News

Football v. Homophobia takes place for second year

This weekend sees an event which calls on people to end homophobia in sport. Football v. Homophobia events are taking place in the UK, US, Spain and Australia. This weekend would have been former West Ham and Man City footballer Justin Fashanu's 50th birthday, but he committed suicide aged 37 after several years of scrutiny of his private life following announcing that he was gay in 1990. 20 years later, not a single other professional footballer in the world has openly admitted to being gay though it seems likely that there are hundreds who are but live in fear of ther consequences of the truth becoming known.


19th February 2011

Reforms to disability living allowance risk widespread poverty

Mums, Widows and Poor to lose out in welfare shake up

Indecorous and Free! Women's protests in Italy

Activists - Why we’re proud of multicultural Britain

Labour List - The trouble with All Women Shortlists

"NHS has culture of ageism" says SAGA

Young people and women hardest hit by unemployment, says ONS

Equality Act 2010: dual discrimination provisions delayed

Womens' refuge chief returns OBE in protest at cuts

EHRC Chair Trevor Phillips on why the recovery must be inclusive

Pretty much daily now, I read that in a time of financial restraint we can't afford our anti-discrimination and equality laws. That we can't afford to do the right thing.- That the Equality Act passed last year is bad for business.- And that our Commission is a fearsome Stalinist bureaucracy terrorising wealth creators and crushing small businesses.
Read the full article and watch the video

New agency "UN Women" must not be a missed opportunity

Anas Sarwar MP has written an article for Left Foot Forward about the continuing global inequalities for women and the hopes that a new UN agency will address some of these.


Reports that government will allow gay marriage are "misleading"

Some newspapers have repoted the implementation of part of the Equality Bill as allowing gay marriage. In fact this is excluded in the bill and all that is changing is that it will be allowed for civil partnership ceremonies to be carried out in religious locations - something that already takes place in several groups that have more forward thinking attitudes. Quakers, Liberal Jews, Uniterians and members of the Metropolitan Church already have civil ceromonies available in their places of worship.

However, the Equality Bill does not allow for the word "marriage" to be used for these ceremonies and it would seem unlikely that this government will be the one to oversee an end to this inequality. Traditionalist religious institutions are often seen as the last refuge of prejudice and highly influential in preventing even those who are not part of their groups from being treated equally. Whilst we may wish to respect their freedoms to worship as they see fit, it would be wrong to allow them to dictate how other people live their lives.


16th February 2011

UK Uncut demo will turn London bank into creche on February 26th

As part of a campaign to highlight how women will be hit hardest by the program of cuts, UK Uncut have announced that they will be occupying a major London financial premises and turning it into a creche or playcentre on Saturday the 26th of February.

UK Uncut describe the event as a "bail in" and it will be obvious that they consider that as money that should be funding public services was used to bail out the banks - that those banks being funded by taxpayers money should provide the services that the public has been denied as a result. Those interested in a family day out can find out more details at the link below.


15th February 2011

Cameron's housing plans will hit the poor, unemployed, low paid and disabled hardest

David Cameron's plans for housing reform have been attacked by Labour and Green MPs and an Early Day Motion called to oppose the changes. Cameron's plans, which include a reduction in housing benefit and allowing council rents to be increased to 80% of the market rate. This will force out thousands of council tenants from areas with higher than average property prices. Another ConDem proposal is that council tenants will have their income reviewed every two years and be evicted if it is assessed that they can afford market rents.

Many believe that the government plans are largely to force council tenants out of upwardly mobile areas, so that the housing can be redeveloped and resold at profit to higher earners. The fate of those that currently live in these homes appears to be of little concern to this government. Needless to say, single mothers, disabled and low earners or unemployed - who will often be from immigrant groups will be hit hardest by the plans. The Morning Star descrivbes the scheme as "social cleansing on a grand scale".


The link below shows a list of current Early Day Motions that can be signed by MPs. The HLC would ask supporters to note the pathetically small number of MPs who are prepared to give their support to ethical causes. Trade unionists may wish to contact their constituency offices to ask thir MPs to endorse causes that they believe are important. We would particularly encourage them to write to their MPs to support John McDonnell's EDM declaring support for the TUC's March for Growth and Jobs on the 26th of March, which at time of writing had only 8 MPs listed. Surely 200 Labour MPs should be supporting the TUC on this issue?


15th February 2011

Government study shows immigrants are less likely to claim benefits than UK born

A recent study by the UK National Office of Statitstics has busted the myth that immigrants just come to Britain to claim benefits. Foreign born adults actually claim less than their British born counterparts.

While the facts are unlikely to sway racist groups such as the BNP from their prejudices, these figures will help to challenge other groups such as the Tories who tend to pander to voter's beliefs using economic arguments.


15th February 2011

Joanna Lumley enters campaign to stop cuts to legal aid

Joanna Lumley has entered the campaign to stop the government attampting to save £350 million by cutting back on legal aid. The proposals have been widely condemned by a variety of groups and the Citizens Advice Bureau has predicted that as many as half a million vulnerable peole will be exposed to unscrupulous tradespeople, employers and landlords. The Bar Council has pedicted that far from saving money for the government, the new scheme could actually cost more while providing far weaker protection for those not able to afford proper legal advice and representation.

The campaign to keep legal aid widely available is being run by a group called Justic For All, which can be contacted at the link below.

Justice For All


15th February 2011

EHRC publishes 3 yearly "How Fair is Britain?" report

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has published its triennial report on equalities. The report covers a range of areas such as standard of living, employment, education and how well various groups are represented in the democratic process. As recently reported, an increase in hate crime is a particular area of concern.

While in a few areas our society has clearly improved on equality issues, he report highlights several areas where groups are being ever more marginalised. Examples include disabled people finding that they are only half as likely to be able to find employment as they were 30 years ago and it being 5 times more likely to be in prison for black people than white, meaning Britain has now overtaken the USA in this inequality.

Employment remains a major area for equality issues and for many groups the situation will get worse as the government cuts start to take effect. For example, 40% of women are employed in the public sector, compared to 15% of men, so they will suffer a disproportunate impact from the estimated 800,000 job losses among those directly employed by government controlled bodies.


15th February 2011

Report shows "disturbing" increase in race hate and homophobic attacks

The London Evening Standard reports that there has been a significant increase in the number of attacks on minority groups in London over the past 4 years. Race hate crime has increased by 7% and homophobic attacs by 28%. However, there are indications that 2010 to 2011 will show much higher increases and nine London boroughs have already reached higher levels only part way through the reporting period.

Recessions are known for triggering a swing to right wing and nationalist views, but this can be no excuse for this kind of crime. These minority groups did not cause this recession, nor did they make the policy decisions that will see Britain's public pay the majority of the bill run up by the financial institutions. We can only improve our situation and our hopes for the future if the average and poorer than average people of this country and others stand side by side to oppose cuts that have been made by the political party of the rich and priviledged that are made to protect the rich and priviledged.


10th February 2011

Shadow Minister says pension changes will hit women hardest

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities has written that coalition changes to pensions will have a dispropotionate effect on women. Men are expected to have to work about one year longer to have the same standard of living that they would have had before the changes, but women will have to work even longer than that to have similar levels of financial security. Oher government changes that will impact especially heavily on women include cuts to child care support, public transport and jobs.

The accelerated program to harmonise retirement ages will leave women in the 56 to 57 age group most out of pocket, as many of these will have fewer pension credits from lower earnings and career breaks from bring ing up children. Women are also less likely to have decent private sector pensions.

A petition has been set up to challenge the government's plans to speed up implementation of the scheme. Click below to read the article and sign up to the petition.


8th February 2011

Government think tank wants to cut links with European Court of Human Rights

Thr right wing government think tank, the Policy Exchange is calling for the UK to sever ties with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This proposal was probably triggered by a European ruling that said that prisoners had a right to vote in elections, but is more based on a belief that UK courts sometimes deal sympathetically with workers in case they are overruled by the ECJ.

Trade unions are likely to view things differently. In particular there is good reason to believe that UK courts freed of accountability to Europe and without any way of employees appealing to the ECJ could mean that European legislation is never fully implemented in this country by the government. Most equality legislation over the past 4 decades comes directly or indirectly from Europe and there is a powerful business lobby that would like to see it all thrown out in the pursuit of bigger and faster profits (sorry, I meant growth).


TUC response to the proposal

7th February 2011

Remploy seeks 2,000 voluntary redundancies from disabled workforce

Unions have reacted angrily to the government owned organisation Remploy asking for 2,000 voluntary redundancies from its work force. Remploy was set up to get disabled people back into the workplace and around ten thousand people are currently employed through it, though since 2008 it has scaled back on the number of jobs it provides.

Unite, GMB and Community unions have strongly criticised the government for closing these jobs at a time when there are so few in the private sector and employers continue to avoid taking on disaled workers because of preconceptions about them.



5th February 2011

Broadcasters talk about "sexism and ageism" in the media industry

Following a victory by Miriam O' Reilly at the employment tribunal for age discrimination by the BBC, a number of senior female broadcaters have been interviewed by the Guardian to give their views. Ms. O' Reilly's claim for sex discrimination was not upheld, but there are no doubt many areas of employment where either age or gender affect career opportunities.


5th February 2011

David Cameron declares that state multiculturism has failed

In a speech today, David Cameron declared that state multiculturism had failed and that Muslim groups that receive funding but do little to tackle extremism would come under scrutiny. His comments followed a similar speech from Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel three months ago, in which she declared that "Multiculturism is dead".

Critics have questioned the timing of Mr. Cameron's statement,, as it coincides with a march by the right wing English Defence League in his own constituency today. Others, who may not necessarily disagree with his stated position will feel that he is merely "playing the race card" to court popularity and distract the public from paying too much attention to the government cuts.

Recessions often generate nationalistic feeling and racial intolerance, so we hope that Mr. Cameron has genuine reasons for his comments rather than pandering to people's frustration, which can manifest in various forms of intolerance.




What does multiculturism really mean

5th February 2011

Unions and UAF to hold counter protest to English Defence League in Luton

Unite Against Fascism and Unite, PCS and CWU are holding a counter protest in Luton today (Saturday February 5th) in opposition to a march planned by the English Defence League. EDL was originally formed by a group of people in Luton and has attracted people with far right wing views, including (according to Wikipedia) a number with convictions for football hooliganism.



Children still being detained in immigration centres despite government promises

Labour List cites an article in the Independent which reports that despite explicit promises from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, children continue to be held in immigration centres designed for adults. A number of children who have been "imprisoned" in this way have shown signs of emotional trauma that is evident even years later.


5th February 2011

TUC says that "substantial cuts" to Equality Commission will hit disadvantaged groups

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has criticised cuts to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which are believed to be substantial. The EHRC was only formed 3 years ago as a cost saving exercise through the merger of the Disability Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission  for Racial Equality. Recent reports from the commission have highlighted that several groups still suffer major inequalities in terms of treatment, pay and opportunities for advancement in employment as well as outside work.

Mr. Barber said 'Reducing the EHRC funding over the next three years is bad news for the most disadvantaged groups in society - the very people who will be hardest hit by public sector spending cuts".


5th February 2011

Default retirement age to be abolished in October but some may still be forced to retire

From the 1st of October this year, companies will not be able to have a defaut retirement age - but there will still be certain business arguments that employers may be able to use to force employees to retire if they can show that it is necessary to protect their business. A court case earlier this year saw a law firm forcefully retire a partner and successfully argue in court that it was necessary to free up senior positions in the firm to allow juniors promotion and attract new lawyers to the company.

It remains to be seen how courts will interpret the latest changes to the law, but it is likely that age discrimination at work will continue to exist in some form or other for the foreseeable future.


3rd February 2011

Two months left until employment law changes

There are a number of changes to employment law that are due to apply from April 2011 that will have an impact on equalities, including -

  • Additional unpaid paternity leave of up to 26 weeks to be allowed (also applies to adoptions and civil partners)
  • Single Equality Duty (from 2010 Equality Act) to apply to public sector workers requiring authorities to act to prevent discrimination
  • Parental rights to request flexible working extended to parents of children up to 18 (from 17)
  • Positive action section of Equality Act comes in to force. Employers may take positive actions to assist individuals with certain protected characteristics in recruitment and promotion where that characteristic is a disadvantage and is under represented
  • Annual limits to immigration to apply


2nd February 2011

Labour warns of risk to mental health services from NHS reforms

Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Minister for Social Care has spoken on the NHS shake up and expresses concerns that mental health care will suffer unless it is protected. Around half of people suffer some form of mental illness at some point in their lives and the support of friends, employers and NHS services is is vital to ensure that sufferers achieve a fast and full rehabilitation while remining in employment.

The coalition has promised an extra £400 million for mental health services, but a number of groups have expressed concern that these funds will not actually reach patients, but instead be swallowed up by administration costs due to reforms from the Health and Social Care Bill.


Wycombe Race Equality centre to close after 50 years due to cuts


2nd Februasry 2011

Some charities for women victims of domestic violence to get 100% cut in funding

Among the casualties of central government cuts are the local councils who have had to make harsh decisions about which services to reduce or abolish. Devon County Council decided to withdraw all funding for 3 women's charities that dealt with the victims of domestic violence, even though there is evidence that this would expose a number of women to a high risk of serious injury or even death.

Council funding for vulnerable people had for a long time been protected, but it has now become commonplace for councils to raid budgets set aside for charities such as Devon's "Action Against Domestic Violence and Abuse" (Adva) Unless the coalition's programme of cuts is challenged by a wider section of the electorate, it is alsmost certain that many more such organisations will lose their funding and face closure.


24th January 2011

B&B owners who denied gay couple double room were guilty of discrimination

The high profile case of the owners of a bed and breakfast who refused a gay couple a double room because of their christian beliefs has now concluded. The owners of the B&B, Mr. and Mrs. Bull were found guilty of breaking the Sexual Orientation Regulations of the 2007 Equality Act. The couple who had been refused the room, Mr. Preddy and Mr. Hall were awarded £1,800 each.

This is an important case, as it demonstrates that a business enterprise cannot discriminate against people with protected characteristics, even if that enterprise is based at someone's home and they have a religion or belief that allows or encourages such discrimination.



18th January 2011

Owners of London's "first gay pub" used illegal tactics to attract "straight" customers

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has delivered its ruling on a case involving the Coleheme public house, which is claimed to be London's first gay pub. In 2008 the pub was bought by Realpubs, who tried to increase business by encouraging hetrosexual customers.

However, the way that they chose to do this was by seating mixed sex couples at tables in the front of the pub where they would be seen by passers by and seating same sex couples away from the windows where they would not be seen. Realpubs won their case at the original tribunal, but the decision was overturned on appeal.


17th January 2011

Abolition of Mobility Allowance may confine disabled to their homes

The Guardian newspaper has expressed concerns over the consequences of the coalition's program of cuts, which removes the Disability Mobility Alloance for disabled people living in residential care. Many diabled people depend on this allowance to pay for trips outside of their care homes and may well become virtual prisoners as a result of this cut.

Whilst healthy and fully employed people will certainly be hit hard by the government's cuts, the disabled are especially vulnerable to cuts in their funding, as many are unable to travel to or carry out most types of employment or are limited to taking on the lowest paid forms of work.

The HLC sees this as yet another example of this government's policy of targeting the most vulnerable members of society in its spending review.


17th January 2011

Women's Aid website and events for 2011


21 Oxbridge colleges did not offer any places to black students last year

The Guardian reports that 21 Oxford and Cambridge colleges did not offer places to black students last year and one (Merton) has not admitted any black students for five years. The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Only one in every 35 applications from black caribbeans was accepted. Even more remarkably, of 1,500 aceadic and lab staff at Cambridge there was not a single black employee and only 34 from an Asian family background.

The most prestigious college places are clearly not going to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and it is difficult to see how things will improve with a tripling of course fees across the country.


End Violence against Women

The United Nations has designated the 25th of November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Sexual harassment, assaults, domestic violence and rape are only a fraction of the problems that the world's women have to face on a daily basis. A 2008 report in the Daily Telegraph stated that a survey of Russian women reported that 100% had been sexually harassed at work, nearly a third had had sex with their boss because they felt it was necessary to their careers and 7% had been raped by their boss. The article reported that their had only been 2 successful court cases by a woman bringing a claim of sexual harassment against her employer in Russia.

There is no doubt that the situation id better in the UK - but it is still not acceptable. Women are far more likely to be the victims of sexual assaults and men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. From Amnesty International - "In poor and rich countries alike, women who are raped or abused have little chance of seeing their attackers brought to justice," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. "It is shocking that in the 21st century with so much legislation designed to ensure women's equality, that virtually every government fails to protect women or to ensure that their abusers are held to account for their crimes."

Find out more -



Related Downloads

View/Download Unite Charter For Women Unite Charter For Women