Thierry Schaffauser, President of the GMB Sex Workers Branch, has had a letter published in the Morning Star in which he responds to the news that UNISON Women’s Conference voted overwhelmingly in support of the Demand Change motion.

Entitled “Unison women taking wrong tack on prostitution”, Schaffauser’s letter is, well, for the sake of civilised debate, let’s just say predictable….

Unsurprisingly there are a couple of points I’d like to pick up on in his response, not least of which are his claims that prostituted people are workers and trade unionists just like everyone else in the trade union movement; an argument I know we’ve rehearsed on this blog a gazillion times before (here for instance, and here) but what the hell, if the GMB/IUSW aren’t bored with it yet then neither am I.

So for a start, sex work is not “work like any other” as pro-prostitution apologists like Schaffauser like to claim. For example, there aren’t many, if any other jobs in the world where rape, physical violence, abuse and degradation are regarded as occupational hazards, or where your chances of a premature death are as greatly increased as they are in prostitution. Equally there aren’t many jobs around that state in the person spec a need for the applicant to have been abused either sexually or physically as a child; to have been in the care system at some point in their earlier years, or to be a substance abuser; and yet a disproportionate number of prostituted women tick all of those boxes.

Prostitution is not a victimless crime, and nor is it the squeaky clean career option that Schaffauser, Belle de Jour or our old friend Douglas Fox like to paint it as: the sex industry for instance is inextricably linked to organised crime, trafficking, and sexual exploitation, and contributes to a myriad of other harms, both individual and social, besides those I’ve already listed. And if you don’t believe me, listen to the voices of those who have managed to escape the industry, just as the authors of the Demand Change motion did before they submitted it to the conference agenda.

As for the GMB Sex Workers Branch members being trade unionists  just like the rest of us: no, just no. UNISON for example does not accept into membership supporters and allies of the public sector, just the people who work in it. That’s unlike the GMB/IUSW, which accepts into its membership anyone and everyone involved in the sex industry, including agency owners, pimps, punters and sympathetic/interested-in-earning-yet-more-bucks-off-women’s-backs academics. In fact I’m so interested in the sex industry myself I’m even considering signing up. How about it Thierry – see you at the next branch meeting?

Most trade unionists are interested in exposing and eradicating gender and other inequalities and oppressions, not in defending them and promoting them as Schaffauser and his ilk do. Note his assertion that: “It is incorrect to suggest that the Olympic Games will lead to an increase in trafficking – no increase has been proven during previous sport events.” for example.

And finally, most trade unionists and political activists know that if you want to give a lecture on sexism, it’s probably not a good idea to refer to women as sodding girls throughout the duration of it.