The Jobs and Skills Summit and LGBTIQ Australians Part 2

Last Sunday, I posted about the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit, and the inclusion (or, at that stage, exclusion) of issues affecting LGBTIQ workers.

This included a letter to Prime Minister Albanese, Treasurer Chalmers, and seven of their ministerial colleagues, calling on them to include consideration of two matters in particular that affect LGBTIQ people in the workplace:

  • The absence of explicit protections for trans, gender diverse and intersex employees in the Fair Work Act 2009(Cth), and
  • The breadth of exceptions, in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and elsewhere, allowing religious organisations to discriminate against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including in the delivery of public services using taxpayers’ money.

Since then, the issue of potential LGBTIQ exclusion from the Jobs and Skills Summit has been picked up by my friends at Just.Equal Australia, as well as being reported on by:

I also received the below, generic response from the Treasurer’s office, which, to be honest, did not inspire much confidence that my concerns, and the concerns of my community, were being taken seriously:

Dear Alastair,

Thank you for your email and attached correspondence about the Albanese Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, which is scheduled to held over the 1st and 2nd of September.

The Jobs and Skills Summit will bring together around 100 representatives including from unions, employers, civil society and governments, to address our shared economic challenges.

The outcomes of the Summit will inform the Employment White Paper, which will be a shared vision and comprehensive blueprint for the future of Australia’s labour market.

Although Summit attendance will be limited and invite only, Treasury will be opening a submission process to collect insights and perspectives from the wider community later in 2022.

You can find out more information about the Summit and the White Paper, including up to date advice on when public submissions will be opened, by visitinghttps://treasury.gov.au/employment-whitepaper/jobs-summit.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and views on the above which will be brought to the attention of the Treasurer’s ministerial team.

Best wishes

[Name withheld], on behalf of the Hon. Jim Chalmers MP

Office of the Hon. Jim Chalmers MP | Treasurer of Australia and Federal Member for Rankin

Which made it a pleasant surprise to read, via Out in Perth, the Treasurer Jim Chalmers confirm that LGBTIQA+ issues would indeed be on the agenda at the conference:

‘We recognise that many LGBTIQA+ Australians often face a range of unique challenges when it comes to secure employment.

‘These are exactly the issues that we hope to address through our Jobs and Skills Summit.

‘That’s why removing barriers to employment and workforce participation are central themes of our Jobs and Skills Summit. Our aim is to bring people together around our big economic challenges to ensure more Australians can get a secure, well-paid job.’

Of course, just because LGBTIQ issues might actually be discussed, does not mean the Summit itself, or the Government afterwards, will recommend or commit to taking action to fix the problems which lead to workplace discrimination against, and exclusion of, LGBTIQ people.

I should also note I have not had a response from Albanese, Chalmers or any of the other seven Ministers addressing the substantive concerns raised by my letter.

In which case, the push continues to ensure the Fair Work ActSex Discrimination Act and other relevant laws are amended so that LGBTIQ workers are judged on the basis of their ability, not their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

In that context, today I have sent the below emails to two of the primary non-Government voices that will be represented at the Jobs and Skills Summit: ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott.

Hopefully their assistance will help give voice to the need to legislate better protections for LGBTIQ workers in Australia.

*****

Sunday 28 August 2022

Sally McManus

Secretary

Australian Council of Trade Unions

Dear Ms McManus

Please support reforms to protect LGBTIQ workers at the Jobs and Skills Summit

I am writing to you about the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit, at which you will be a key voice advocating for the interests of Australian workers.

In particular, I am writing, both as a union member for two decades, and as a leading advocate for my community, to ask you to support important reforms to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) workers.

These include:

  • Reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to explicitly protect trans, gender diverse and intersex workers against adverse action and unlawful termination. This could be achieved, easily, by adding gender identity and sex characteristics as protected attributes in relevant sections where categories such as race, sex, disability, age and even sexual orientation are already covered.
  • Reforms to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and other Commonwealth and State and Territory anti-discrimination laws to remove the special privileges granted to religious organisations allowing them to discriminate against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including in the delivery of public services using taxpayers’ money. This problem is especially acute in what is described in the Issues Paper as the ‘care economy’ and their removal would, I believe, lead to more LGBTQ people entering professions like education, disability services and aged care.

I attach with this correspondence a letter which was sent to Prime Minister Albanese, Treasurer Chalmers and seven of their ministerial colleagues, that provides more detail about these issues, and the compelling reasons why changes must be made to both.

I note both your own strong personal support, and the strong support of many unions and members of the ACTU, to LGBTIQ rights over the past decade, including through the campaign for marriage equality.

I look forward to your support once again, on Thursday and Friday of this week, and over the following months, for the interests of LGBTIQ workers.

Because I am confident that you agree trans, gender diverse and intersex workers should have the same Fair Work Act protections as any employee. And that LGBTQ workers should be judged on their ability, rather than their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sincerely

Alastair Lawrie

*****

Sunday 28 August 2022

Jennifer Westacott

Chief Executive Officer

Business Council of Australia

Dear Ms Westacott

Please support reforms to protect LGBTIQ workers at the Jobs and Skills Summit

I am writing to you about the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit, at which you will be a key voice in central debates around economic and industrial relations reforms.

In particular, I am writing as a leading advocate for my community to ask you to support important reforms to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) workers.

These include:

  • Reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to explicitly protect trans, gender diverse and intersex workers against adverse action and unlawful termination. This could be achieved, easily, by adding gender identity and sex characteristics as protected attributes in relevant sections where categories such as race, sex, disability, age and even sexual orientation are already covered.
  • Reforms to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and other Commonwealth and State and Territory anti-discrimination laws to remove the special privileges granted to religious organisations allowing them to discriminate against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, including in the delivery of public services using taxpayers’ money. This problem is especially acute in what is described in the Issues Paper as the ‘care economy’ and their removal would, I believe, lead to more LGBTQ people entering professions like education, disability services and aged care.

I attach with this correspondence a letter which was sent to Prime Minister Albanese, Treasurer Chalmers and seven of their ministerial colleagues, that provides more details about these issues, and the compelling reasons why changes must be made to both.

Indeed, I note that you made some of the same arguments for better workplace inclusion in your speech on 27 May this year at the 2022 Australian LGBTIQ Inclusion Awards:

‘[T]oday we are here to celebrate and applaud the excellence of employers and their teams for their commitment to advancing inclusion and diversity.

It’s the right thing to do.

And not just that – it’s also smart business.

When every person can be their best selves at work:

  • They’re happier
  • They’re more productive
  • They’re more creative
  • They’re more loyal, and
  • They’re more likely to stay with their current employer.

Doing the right thing is a win-win…

I do not believe that any person should be made to feel excluded.

I do not believe that any person should be made to feel less than they are.

I do not believe that anyone’s personal struggle should be used as a political football.

So today I want to spend the bulk of my time apologising.

I want to apologise to our transgender colleagues.

I want to apologise:

  • For the hurt you have endured
  • For the cruelty you have been subjected to, and
  • For the fundamental misinformation and unfairness that has shrouded the discussion over the last year, but particularly during the election.’

You went on to acknowledge:

‘I understand the fear and worry when you turn up to work and every single new encounter is potentially:

  • A rejection
  • The loss of your employment status, or
  • The loss of your job.

I understand that there is only one choice you have to make.

It is not a flippant or superficial lifestyle choice.

Instead, it’s a difficult and often agonising acceptance to either be yourself or to pretend to be someone else.’

The upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit is another opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to improving the lives of trans and gender diverse Australians, who are affected by both the lack of explicit protections under the Fair Work Act, and the broad special privileges granted to religious organisations under the Sex Discrimination Act.

I look forward to you building on your public apology in May by supporting essential reforms to both these laws later this week.

Because I am confident, based on your speech, that you agree trans, gender diverse and intersex workers should have the same Fair Work Act protections as any employee. And that LGBTQ workers should be judged on their ability, rather than their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sincerely

Alastair Lawrie

*****

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott will play a key role in whether the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit supports much-needed law reform to protect the rights of LGBTIQ workers.

NB This post is written in a personal capacity, and does not reflect the views of employers past or present.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, please consider subscribing to receive future posts, via the right-hand scroll bar on the desktop version of this blog or near the bottom of the page on mobile. You can also follow me on twitter @alawriedejesus

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