The paper aims to focus on the activism of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people and their allies within work organisations. Specifically, it explores whether LGBT trade union groups and company employee network groups provide mechanisms for visibility, voice and activism for LGBT employees within UK organisations.
This paper is based on in‐depth interviews with 149 LGB employees within 14 UK case study organisations. These took place within four local authorities, three fire and emergency services, two national voluntary sector organisations and five private sector organisations between 2004‐2006. In addition, 55 in‐depth interviews with management, trade union and LGBT company employee network group representatives within the organisations plus analysis of company and trade union web sites and publications provided information on organisation policy and practice. Interviews were conducted using a semi‐structured interview schedule and the data collected were coded and analysed with the assistance of Nvivo software.
This paper outlines the history of LGBT trade union groups and company employee network groups within the UK. It found that both LGBT trade union groups and company employee network groups have provided important and at times complimentary mechanisms for visibility, community and voice for LGBT employees. However, the paper recognised that LGBT company network groups were relatively “new actors” within the case study organisations and suggests that some early gains may have been those which companies were willing to concede. It concludes that more research will be needed to see whether both LGBT trade union and company employee network groups can maintain their momentum during a time of economic recession as equality and diversity budgets are squeezed.
A decline in trade unions and increasing non‐unionisation despite labour movement revitalisation campaigns has meant that there is growing interest in whether employee network groups can provide meaningful avenues for “employee voice” in both unionised and non‐unionised workplaces. The paper addresses a gap in knowledge by focusing firstly on LGBT activism in the workplace and secondly on the rationale for and development of LGBT trade union and company employee network groups as mechanisms for “employee voice” for LGBT employees.
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