Wider debate needed on the rights and issues of sex workers, TUC Congress hears

13 Sep 2017

PCS and the TUC needs to have a wider debate on the rights of sex workers and their issues, our vice president Zita Holbourne told Congress today (13).

Speaking to motion 39, moved by Aslef, which called for the decriminalisation of sex work and was overwhelmingly opposed by Congress, Zita said that our union recognises the importance of the issue and the need to debate it.

She explained that PCS was abstaining on the motion because our union has not yet fully debated the issues facing sex workers.

“This affects LGBT and transgender people, who are often barred from regular employment, as well as women,” she said.

“People often turn to prostitution because the impact of job cuts, general poverty, cuts and benefit sanctions because they feel they have no choice.”

Campaign to resolve issues driving women into prostitution

Sue Ferns of the TUC General Council explained why the general council opposed the motion.

She said that full decriminalisation of sex workers would also lead to decriminalisation of pimps and brothel owners.

“We should be campaigning to end the austerity, poverty and benefit sanctions that drive some women into prostitution,” she said.

Philipa Harvey from the NEU said the TUC could not have any policy that supported the “exploitation of young women and girls”.

Penny Smith from Unison said that permitting the exploitation of the most vulnerable in society is not something the TUC should condone.

Simon Weller, who moved the motion calling upon the TUC to adopt a policy in favour of full decriminalisation of sex work, said that he thought there should be a role for the TUC as the voice for all workers.

“This is not an issue that is going away,” he said. “One voice that’s missing in this debate is the voice of the sex workers themselves.”

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