12 Oct 2011

Congress General Secretary David Begg has said that greater workplace equality could aid our economic recovery and help ensure that we create "a more sustainable growth model in the years to come."

Speaking at the launch of a series of workplace equality resources and guides, Mr Begg said: "Those societies that prioritise equality across all spheres of social and economic life are more stable, less prone to crisis and more economically efficient, the Nordic countries being a fine example.

"During the property and credit boom all the evidence suggests that Ireland became a more unequal place. And the evidence now is that the austerity drive has aggravated that inequality," Mr Begg said.

The materials were launched formally by the Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health & Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD.

The materials include: resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers and trade unions; a revised disability code of practice for trade unions, to include mental health issues; guidance on taking an equality case and a study on developing an integration strategy for unions, in relation to migrant workers.

The resource guide for gay, lesbian and transgender workers was produced in association with the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) and the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI).

Speaking at the launch, Davin Roche, Director of Workplace Diversity with GLEN, said:

"Equality in the workplace is a key issue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There has been enormous progress for lesbian and gay people in Ireland over the last 20 years. Congress and the trade union movement have played a very important role in supporting this work. The recent introduction of Civil Partnership continues this progress in bringing equality in the workplace in the area of pensions and workplace benefits for same sex couples. This guide provides very practical information for LGBT employees and trade unions on a range of LGBT workplace equality issues."

Addressing the difficulties faced by transgender workers, the Director of TENI, Broden Giambrone, said: "Everyone has the right to work with dignity, and we all benefit when there is respect and equal treatment. Unfortunately, transgender workers often face challenges in the workplace due to high levels of prejudice and discrimination. This guide represents a positive step towards workplace equality by providing trade unions and managers with the tools and knowledge to support transgender workers."

Brian Merriman of the Equality Authority, which sponsored some of the publications, said:

"It is important to unions and employers the tools necessary to enable them to ensure statutory obligations to employees are fully met. We now know that engaging with employers on equality reduces the incidence of discrimination.

"Our Pregnancy at Work research, published this year in partnership with the Crisis

Pregnancy Programme of the HSE, confirms that organisations with equality policies are less likely to discriminate against their pregnant workers. Other research shows that equality compliance produces a productivity dividend. We owe it to workers and their employers to do what we can to ensure that their workplaces take discrimination seriously and are properly equipped to tackle it.

"This welcome initiative with Congress makes an important contribution to improving equality compliance and the workplace experience for employees in challenging times," Mr Merriman concluded.