You’ve probably all heard by now anyway, but just in case you haven’t – last week UNISON Conference voted overwhelmingly in support of the Demand Change! motion. This means that supporting the Nordic model of prostitution, criminalising those who buy sex while at the same time decriminalising those who sell it, is now official UNISON policy.

There are some good write ups about it here, and here, and a UNISON news item about it here.

There was some opposition to the motion, but not as much as I was expecting to be honest. I do know that prior to conference an email was circulated among activists from Thierry Schaffauser, President of the GMB Sex Workers Branch, asking people to oppose the policy of criminalising clients, but I’m not sure how much impact that had. While we were at conference Workers Liberty and the Labour Representation Committee held a fringe meeting where they argued against the policy, and at which Thierry was the guest speaker, but again, I’m not sure how much impact that had either – although judging by the final vote not a great deal at all.

I noticed that the day after that meeting Workers’ Liberty put out a leaflet claiming that:

“Last night 60 delegates packed out the Workers’ Liberty/LRC fringe meeting on this issue, which was addressed by GMB sex work activist Thierry Schaffauser. We think that at this meeting, which members of the women’s committee attended to put their case for 117, the arguments for a different approach to this question were won conclusively.”

Which was not the case at all, as we didn’t go to the fringe to put our case, but simply to listen to what arguments they were going to use so that we wouldn’t be taken by surprise by anything during the conference debate. And the arguments for a different approach were not won conclusively – they were just the same old arguments we’ve heard time and time again, on this blog and others. But never mind, I’m sure it’s only similar to what my side would have said if the opposition had turned up at our fringe meeting.

Unfortunately on the day the debate was cut short, which was a shame as it was a really interesting debate and there were still a lot of people lined up waiting to speak. But the important thing is that we finally had the debate, that we took the motion to our National Conference and we won.

Now all we have to do is find a way to deal with the some of the shitty sexist attitudes still rife within the union, as illustrated by the big laugh some bloke got when he made reference to having to pay full price for his porn in his conference speech, and the guy who came out of the hall after the prostitution debate and joked about having to have a whip round so he could buy himself a prostitute before the whole thing was made illegal…..

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