Letters: Marsha de Cordova and the Equalities Act; On-the-spot strikes

Submitted by AWL on 20 October, 2020 - 5:28
Marsha de Cordova

My article last week referred to a tweeted comment by Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Marsha de Cordova, and her failure to respond to calls to apologise.

It’s worth spelling out the detail. The Law Society had published some good guidance on how to support gender-transitioning employees.

A transphobic response was published by a blog called “Roll on Friday”. It criticised the Law Society for saying transitioning employees should be able to use the toilet that they are comfortable using, saying that it meant abolishing “single sex spaces” and implying that it went against the Equality Act 2010.

Marsha de Cordova re-tweeted the “Roll on Friday” blog post, and appeared to agree with their conclusions, saying: “Not clear how the Law Society thinks this fits with the Equality Act 2010”. That implied that Marsha de Cordova think trans women should not be able to use women’s toilets. In fact the Equality Act 2010 says trans people can use the single sex services appropriate to their lived gender unless there are exceptional circumstances.

It is worrying that the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities seems unwilling or unable to defend the rights trans people currently have under the Equality Act 2010, especially when Liz Truss has signalled that the government may reduce these rights. The Labour Party must defend trans rights!

Angela Driver, London

On-the-spot strikes

In September 2020 New York City teachers planned a strike over school reopening. NYC was the only big school district in the USA reopening then. The planned strike was illegal under New York state law, but pushed the city into a postponement of the reopening, and a detailed checklist of precautions, monitored by committees in schools. For example, ventilation systems in schools have been independently checked (with results published on some school websites).

In Queensland, Australia, in late March, a planned strike, also illegal, pushed the state government to close schools. Initially, just early for the Term 1/2 holiday, but in fact for four weeks (or more, for some year groups) into Term 2. Queensland’s other lockdown measures were already in place, introduced bit by bit after the state government had declared a state of emergency on 29 January.

Teachers’ strikes can make a difference. One difference with Stuart Jordan (Letters, Solidarity 567) is that I think ballots for strikes done on the basis of giving mandates for unpredictable future circumstances, and at times when most members are at home or in school only odd days, are difficult to pull off. Also, I don’t believe in the scenario of school strikes triggering mass strikes.

In any case, that debate is behind us now. We have exploding infections and government disarray. And the NEU has called no ballots. Let’s say Stuart is right about the message “we should have started a ballot six weeks ago, or six months ago”. That cannot strengthen a response now.

There were many walkouts over workplace safety back in March-April, not balloted-for, but on-the-spot responses. The USA has seen a wave of small strikes in the pandemic, as reported in Solidarity 567.

Building up on that action is the way to go.

Colin Foster, London

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