ASLEF and GMB taking stand for sex workers' rights

Posted On: 
11th September 2017

Unions back motion at TUC Congress to support New Zealand approach to decriminalisation of sex work.

Trade unions ASLEF and GMB are backing a motion supporting the decriminalisation of sex workers at TUC Congress this week.

The unions are backing a call to support the New Zealand model of full decriminalisation which since 2003 has provided sex workers with legal protections as workers in that country.

The ASLEF motion to TUC Congress, backed by GMB, follows a recommendation from the Home Affairs Committee in 2016 that sex workers be decriminalised.

Organisations such as Amnesty International advocate for the decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual adult sex - including sex work.

At present, workers in the sex industry suffer human rights abuses as a result of criminalisation.

It is illegal for people selling sex to share premises or organise work with others.

This infringes Articles 17 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the rights to own property and freedom of association), and results in infringement of Article 7 (equal protection of the law).

The unions are calling for policy on the sex industry to be based on evidence - and for the global sex workers’ rights movement to be included in policy decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.

Debbie Reay, Chair of ASLEF's Women's Representatives Committee, said:

“It would seem the trade union movement is happy to defend any worker unless they're a sex worker - because that appears to offend some people's sensibilities.

"But the truth is you will never get rid of sex work and sex workers - people have been trying, and failing, for thousands of years - and we believe that sex workers, like other workers, need and deserve our protection."

Cat Stephens, Sex Worker and GMB Activist, said:

​"A community's worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable - and sex workers, whatever their gender,  are some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in the UK.

"It's time for trade unionists to treat people who sell sexual services with respect and support our fight for our rights.

"Every worker in the sex industry, whether there by choice, circumstance or coercion, is entitled to full and equal human rights and the protection of the law.”

Margaret Gregg, GMB activist said:

“Decriminalisation of sex workers does not promote or celebrate sex work.

"Respect for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is fundamental to feminism.

"Decriminalisation is not a magic bullet, but it is an essential first step to effectively tackle the violence and exploitation facilitated by current legislation.”