by Josephine Bartosch
Wednesday, 16
February 2022
Debate
17:30

Unions are failing women

The NEU is the latest to bow to trans activists
by Josephine Bartosch
Nottingham City Council’s fave flag. Credit: Getty

“I just don’t understand why we can’t get women to meetings,” complained the beery-breathed, dandruff-flecked secretary of the UNISON branch. As he told me this, I recalled that his own partner, a woman with an avid interest in politics, was at home looking after the couple’s children. So began my disenchantment with trade unions.­­

The comments of this “union man” popped back into my mind today when the National Education Union (NEU) announced they would be undertaking “a review” following complaints about a webinar. Educational professionals who attended a session run by Elly Barnes, chief executive of the LGBT+ training provider Educate and Celebrate, were advised to ask students for their pronouns and that the words “boys” and “girls” could be replaced. Some union members were angry. One told the Times:

Teachers will take what this woman says as fact because the training was organised by the NEU and they’re not going to question their union.
- The Times

The NEU spokesperson claimed that the training had been organised locally, “but the NEU does not believe that schools can or should adopt gender-neutral language across the board”.

This limp response doesn’t hold-up. In fact, the NEU has form in beating the trans activist drum; in its guidance the union states that policies and practices must be amended to “ensure they are trans inclusive and remove gendered language where unnecessary”. With regard to toilets, NEU advises that facilities should be made available on the basis of gender identity, not biological sex, even arguing for “gender neutral” options for those who identify as “non-binary”.

The NEU stance is clear — legal and social divisions based on sex should be replaced with self-declared “gender identity”. The needs of the one in five females who are victims of male sexual violence do not feature as a concern in members’ guidance.

This is because there’s a paradox at the heart of unions; on the one hand they exist to protect the interests of the majority in workplaces, but on the other, there is a default view that all minorities are discriminated against and in need of protection.

To the mainstream Left, those who identify as trans are considered a persecuted group, despite the fact that this broad definition brackets together everyone from cross-dressers to those who have undergone surgery. Conversely women are neither recognised as a class deserving of rights nor as a vulnerable, marginal group.

In response to such slights, a grassroots and rightfully aggrieved feminist movement has sprung-up. So-called “gender critical” feminists know that sex matters and that it can’t be changed. Lawyer Allison Bailey, academic Jo Phoenix and tax consultant Maya Forstater are just a handful of women to have taken on their employers in the courts following alleged discrimination on the basis of their gender critical views. And yet, none have been able to rely on unions for support.

Had unions listened to members or taken a stand against the elitist hyper-liberal ideology which has spread through institutions, they might have stayed relevant to ordinary women. As it is, trade unions have made themselves redundant; few feminists will mourn their passing.

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Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
5 months ago

Unions are irrelevant because they have achieved their goal. Workers rights are now protected in law. It’s not easy to just fire someone. There’s a minimum wage. 28 days paid holiday. Maternity leave. Statutory sick pay and companies often go beyond statutory minimums. The gig economy and the grey economy are where unions might still have a role but they aren’t interested in representing workers in precarious employment. They’re quite happy collecting subs from the totally securely employed and overpaid members of the blob. Who actually don’t need their services

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
5 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

Good point.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
6 months ago

At one time unions were very important; they protected men and women expected to work in inhuman, unsafe conditions. Today they are almost irrelevant in this respect.
Today, being in a union is a way of becoming politicised without having to think about it. The big unions represent government employees and allow virtual unsackability, a job without responsibility and a good pension. In Wales, the ruling Labour Party has said that the aim is for everyone to be a government employee – and a union member. (Who pays?)
Feminists have fought for many years to have parity in the workplace. Now they are virtually there, protected by laws. They have abused this almost-equality by having sillier and sillier demands – ‘we won’t have children’ or ‘we believe that marriage is slavery’ or ‘top jobs must go to women, or else’. Everybody is now bored with feminism.
Transes (is this the plural?) are new and different. Everybody wants new things. Unions want to show how trendy they are. Unions focus on the trans population. I read here that trans people have become boring and now you have to identify with an animal. Presumably if you are a feminist, men identify with pigs.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The unions are just very successful parasites. Take the Teachers Unions – they have basically destroyed an entire generation of children’s education – thus lowing their lifetime income, producing much more diseases of despair and poverty, and reducing the Nations Competitiveness and wealth.

They did this Crime Against Humanity so they could sit at home wile getting paid – They destroyed a hundred million young people from sheer sloth, greed, and maliciousness.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Be careful – unions are good at rewriting history to place themselves at the centre of every positive development in employee conditions.
And using safety only as stick to beat critics with.
Just ask them which they would prefer:
A closed shop; or a non-union workplace with far better wages and conditions.
They will go for the power of a closed shop every time.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“Who pays?” – Us nobodies, many of whom have been asked to leave their union. I was in the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers Union but they regarded me as a trouble maker when, as a Master, I stood-up for a 2nd Mate against what I regarded as a “Stitch-up” by Owners and Union. So – I joined the Shipmasters Union who shortly afterwards bankrupt themselves by spending an inordinate amount of “our” money defending a repeatedly drunken ferrymaster.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

I spent a great part of my career in a unionised environment – as a boss. I had a good relationship with union officials after I realised that they didn’t fight important issues, only the crazy ones – as you infer.

So we would play a game. I would be alerted about an issue where the union had to stand by a certain member, I would help in every way. In return, they would help to ease in major changes to working practices. The union officials were, therefore, politicians looking for quick soundbites.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Probably my worst experience with unions was when I managed a factory that had to reduce its workforce. The policy was ‘last in first out’, and I had to explain to a bunch of kids who were great workers that they had to be ‘let go’. And older workers who were slackers had to be kept. The kids were brilliant, they understood this policy and accepted it. I hated it.
The management sacked me a few months later, I think at the request of the union because I kept challenging them.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago

The needs of the one in five females who are victims of male sexual violence do not feature as a concern in members’ guidance.

What on Earth is that supposed to mean in this context?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It means this writer is an agenda driven loon.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
5 months ago

I stopped reading after the first paragraph.
In fact, I nearly stopped after the cheap and hypocritically gendered attacks on this man’s appearance, but I let myself read on, until the author began conflating his and his partner’s parenting choices with a wider point about union membership.
If she had any worthwhile points to make in the subsequent paragraphs, I’ll never know. But I think my bet was a safe one.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Me too. Beery-breathed? Dandruff-flecked? Oh noes, and the little woman is home taking care of the children?! Misandrists are predictable bores, boring us predictably.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
5 months ago

But it did make him seem like most of the union reps it’s ever been my misfortune to meet.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

I’ll drink to that.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

And every misandrist I’ve had the misfortune to meet looks like a fat version of Lilith Crane.

D Ward
D Ward
5 months ago

Stop using their terminology. The likes of Maya Forstetter et al do not hold “gender critical” views.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

Perhaps unions should get back to focusing on workers instead of the divisive identity politics used by employers to divide and conquer their own workforces. The author’s flippant misandry is part of the exact same phenomenon.

Last edited 5 months ago by R Wright
Karl Francis
Karl Francis
5 months ago

“trade unions have made themselves redundant;” Yep.