Human Rights and International Solidarity – motion

Human rights and International solidarity

This branch notes

  1. The failure of Dubai or the United Arab Emirates to ratify UN treaties such as the UN covenant on civil and political rights and the Convention against Torture.
  2. That independent trade unions are unlawful in Dubai and membership of an independent trade union is a criminal offence. See https://www.ituc-csi.org/united-arab-emirates for more on workers rights.
  3. Previous reports by the International Trade Union Confederation that the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, have one of the worst records on fundamental workers rights.
  4. Public Protests are banned in Dubai.
  5. It is a criminal act to be in a relationship or enact sexual or affectionate behaviour with a person of the same perceived gender. This can be punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment, chemical castration, deportation or death.
  6. It is a criminal act to be transgender or to cross-dress. This can be punishable with fines, prison or deportation.
  7. Many LGBT people both here and abroad are not out at work and therefore may not be able state why they do not wish to go to Dubai.
  8. University employees are being used to work on Dubai without any additional resources and this is leading to pressure on existing teams and undermining student support in Birmingham.

This branch believes

  1. Human rights are universal and global and not something to be accepted or rejected out of convenience.
  2. Everyone has the right to belong to an independent trade union and to be able to freely associate and protest with others
  3. The University is wrong to open a campus in a state where basic human and workers rights are not recognised.
  4. Everyone has the right to be in a same-gender relationship or express same-gender attraction. Everyone has the right to accurately express their gender, including transitioning their gender. It is a personal choice for LGBT people on whether or not to be out at work. This is undermined for staff working in areas linked to Dubai as colleagues and managers may not understand why someone does not wish to work in Dubai.
  5. Academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression are vital to any University and that all teaching and learnings resources should be available to all UoB students, regardless of which campus they study on.
  6. That students have the right to freely form their own student society’s
  7. Any documentation originating from Dubai authorities, affecting the rights or well being of UoB employees, should be in English and only English Language documentation should be recognised in determining staff contracts, rights and responsibilities. This principle should override any contractual agreements made by UoB with Dubai or any other external organisation

The Birmingham University UNISON branch agrees to

  1. Issue the statement below and to circulate it as a press release.
  2. Work to ensure individual employees are not placed at risk or face any disadvantage by deciding to go to Dubai or turn down requests to work there.
  3. To demand the University to have at least the existing levels of student support and not leave departments short staffed due to the Dubai campus.
  4. To support any initiative by the International Trade Union Congress or other body recognised by UNISON to support workers rights in Dubai.
  5. To raise awareness amongst the University community of the lack of Human rights in Dubai.
  6. Demand the University provides free legal support to any member of staff or student who requires it as a result of living or working in Dubai, regardless of whether it is deemed to be a criminal or civil offence in Dubai.
  7. Raise with the University students and staff access to the same books and literature in Dubai and in the UK.
  8. Question the University on how aspects of the UK curriculum will be taught. For example, how will student teachers in Dubai be taught to deal with someone who discloses as being LGBT?
  9. Support any student demands to set up their own student society’s.

Unison Statement on the University’s New Links with Dubai.

We wish strongly to condemn the University’s decision to choose Dubai as a close business-partner and specifically as the place to open a second campus.
By opening a campus in Dubai the University are helping to provide a respectable image to a regime which has banned trade unions, making belonging to any trade union a criminal offence; made being made being trans or being in a same-gender relationship a criminal offence and has a long record of mistreating migrant workers, especially those from India and Pakistan.

This decision is not only ethically questionable but also in complete contravention of the University’s own stated equality and diversity policies. The University’s website statement on Equality and Diversity includes the following:

“We believe our diversity is a source of strength that underpins the exchange of ideas, innovation and debate at the heart of our academic mission…we remain committed to promoting equality, diversity and fairness irrespective of age, disability, gender, pregnancy or marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The decision to work so closely with Dubai renders such a statement either meaningless or hypocritical: it is not possible for the University to claim to be ‘promoting diversity’ irrespective of ‘sexual orientation’ when it is forging close ties with (and sending its own staff to) a country which imposes jail sentences, or even the death penalty, for homosexual activity. There is no possibility of there being a student LGBT Association on our Dubai campus.

The University has previously had a good reputation as an LGBT-friendly employer, having been ranked (in 2015) amongst Stonewall’s top one hundred LGBT-friendly employers. However, the decision to forge such close links with Dubai is one which suggests that an eagerness for profit has over-ridden any serious interest in LGBT rights and led the University to do serious damage its own reputation.

UNISON believes that everyone, regardless of where they are born or where they work, has the right to belong to a trade union, to freely associate and campaign with others, to be in a same-gender relationship or express same-gender attraction, to accurately express their own gender identity and that human rights are universal.

We call upon the University to take whatever action is necessary to distance itself immediately, publicly and unmistakeably from Dubai’s atrocious record on LGBT rights, on trade union rights and on migrant rights, and to ensure that staff are fully and frankly informed, in writing and up front, about the dangers of working in an environment in which their basic human rights will not be respected, and which refuses these rights to everyone, including our own students in Dubai.

We call on the university to defend its staff further by making all staff rights in Dubai available in English and that staff are only bound by English language documentation concerning their rights and responsibilities and their legal position should unfortunate circumstances occur.