Thursday, 29 January 2009

Losing the Plot


This week Iceland's bumbling Prime Minister quietly slid from office not least as a result of a fear for his skin arising from the increasingly hostile crowds congregating outside his chilly office.

In his stead strides Johanna Sigurdardottir (pictured) who Fidel Castro-style claimed in 1994 having lost a party leadership election "My time will come".

So far so good. What has incensed me however, was that in this transition just about every news item on the matter focused primarily on the fact that Johanna was openly gay and had previously been a flight attendant. See:

Apart from the fact that no prior level of qualification, experience, talent etc. has shown itself useful in successfully avoiding the current global economic crisis, what has here sexual orientation got to do with anything?

Just as worrying is a finding from research I am conducting with colleagues from the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and Ruskin College. In a surveying exercise a noteable degree of resentment and hostility was expressed toward a very basic question (I think) around the sexual orientation of respondents. Survey respondents were trade union activists and officials.

Am I losing the plot?

Although I resent the admission, I acknowledge that the many parts of society are still uncomfortable with gay and lesbian people and relationships. I also work with enough trade unions and trade union activists to have come across statements and 'jokes' that aren't just offensive but potentially criminal.

Leaving Iceland to one side, how do we move forward in addressing the ignorance and intolerance within our own ranks?




ShopSteward85 said...

The press coverage of the new Icelandic Prime Minister doesn't surprise me - that's the press and media for you.

I am though shocked about the comments made in your survey. It worries me that reps would have a problem with being asked any question about who they are.

Maybe I am being naieve but it makes me wonder about how they would treat someone who had a different sexual orientation than themselves and how they would handle a case that involved a sensitive issue on the matter.

The only way to address this it to make clear the movement's commitment to support workers' needs regardless of who they are.

In answer to your question, no you are not losing the plot, you are challenging bigotry.

Keep up the good work!

Del Ansar said...


A bit of a 'queer' one this - excuse the pun - no offence intended.

As you know I have established religious views on this matter and I am happy to say that despite this I treat all members the same regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation etc.

To suggest that I might not, as you have challenged me before, is not on. I can separate my personal views from my role as a UNITE rep and do every day of the week.

AFor example, with members that are alledged to have been racist, I can represent them.

Your thinking is a bit to narrow.


SUNNY said...

To whoever the last post was from -I am not surprised your image looks like a rat as your opinion is a disgrace!

How can you you pretend that your bigotry is a 'pun'.

As Ian has shown with his research and you have shown with your comments we have much to do.

TGWU Rep said...

Thanks Sunny,

This is exactly what this debate is about: challenging those within the movement who feel that the issue here is either funny or not important.


Ian Manborde said...


It is a pity that we sometimes cannot hold a tolerable dialogue around potentially sensitive issues.

As I have asked those responding to blogs before, can we keep comments constructively critical and responses to them on a similar basis?



Jenni said...

Oh dear,

It has been some while since I bothered to add a comment and when I do it is only becuase that trade unionsts cant hold their tongue.

its a disgrace that comments lie these are added to this web site!