Unions rally to end discrimination at work

September 3, 1999

Trade unions will be asked to state that "systematic institutional sexism and racism" exists in British higher education, when they meet at this month's annual Trades Union Congress.

A motion submitted to the conference by the Association of University Teachers calls on the government to set up a national commission on pay discrimination across the public sector.

The motion draws particular attention to higher education, where it states that pay discrimination is accepted on all sides: "In a sector that proclaims itself at the forefront of good, modern employment practice, it is irrefutable that there is systematic institutional sexism and racism."

Public service union Unison has also submitted a motion calling for union members to support attempts by the European Committee of Ministers to make freedom from discrimination a separate right under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Another AUT motion notes that the Dearing, Kennedy, Fryer and Bett reports all identified "a substantial shortfall in the funding required for genuine access to a world-class higher education system".

The AUT wants the government to publish a programme taking investment in higher education to the level of the top quartile of countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development before the next general election.

The union also calls on the TUC to help the National Union of Students bring pressure on the government over student debt.

University and college lecturers' union Natfhe has submitted a motion calling for a fundamental government review of the pay, conditions, development and training of all workers in lifelong learning.

It criticises the government's recent decision to remove benefits for six months to those refusing New Deal options or leaving the scheme early.

"Lifelong learning must be based on the voluntary participation by individuals," it states. "People cannot be forced to learn."

Members of the TUC will also be asked to address problems concerned with genetically modified organisms.

The union wants ministers to consult widely on the moral and ethical implications of developments and to monitor the long-term effects of GMOs.

The conference will take place in Brighton, September 13-16.

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