The creation of Fórsa provides an opportunity to build on the work undertaken by the former CPSU, IMPACT and PSEU in the area of equality.
The new union represents a diverse workforce across many sectors within the public service, the semi-state sector, and elsewhere. Over 75% of our members are women with a keen interest in issues like closing the gender pay gap and improving the provision of flexible and family-friendly employment policies.
Fórsa members are working hard on disability rights, where our branches assist members with disabilities to maximise employment opportunities. Many members are also employed to provide services to disabled clients.
Fórsa plays a significant role within ICTU, where our representatives contribute to the work of Congress on women’s rights, disability rights, race equality, and other areas.
The union’s national executive will shortly establish the first Fórsa Equality and Diversity Committee, and staff are now working towards developing a comprehensive equality strategy with the new committee.
We are drawing on the previous work of the former unions to set out the Fórsa equality perspectives on a range of issues. Key to this approach will be involving activists at branch and executive level in this work. This can be done by establishing networks to draw on experience of working and campaigning on specific issues, and to develop new approaches to delivering on equality issues for members in the workplace.
Early priorities will include a policy, based on international best practice, aimed at closing the gender pay gap, measures to ensure that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is implemented correctly, sharing best practice on family-friendly employment policies, and the provision of regular advice on equality issues for branches and staff.
Fórsa expects all employers to adhere to employment equality legislation and we will continue to challenge them when they fall short. As an organisation we must also ensure that we apply the same legislation correctly, and that we continue promote equality for our staff and members within our own structures. Meeting this requirement will also form part of the new equality strategy.
The most effective way for a trade union to seek to progress equality of opportunity is to mainstream the issue, to make it central to everything we do including training, policies, procedures and collective agreements.
Whatever we do, we have to make sure that our actions are consistent with best practice and that we advance these crucial issues for the benefit of all our members.
Andy Pike is a Fórsa national secretary working in the civil service, who also holds joint responsibility for equality issues in the union.