The annual LGBT conference of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which includes members from Unite, Unison, the National Union of Teachers and more than fifty other unions, heard Thursday how unions needed to increase their work to combat homophobia.

Paul Nowak, TUC Assistant General Secretary, delivered a speech calling on union members to step up their campaigning against LGBT inequality, prejudice and hate.

Praising the efforts made by trade unions so far, he said: “Equal marriage is now on the statute book – something unthinkable just a generation ago. That change, that recognition that a person should be free to marry whoever she or he wants, was brought about thanks to your efforts, your campaigning. And that is truly something to take pride in.”

Yet he continued by noting the challenges still faced by LGBT activists, saying: “In Europe, the far right is on the march – both metaphorically and literally. Our job is to remain vigilant against these threats. That’s why, as the election approaches, the TUC is stepping up its campaigning against inequality, prejudice and hate.”

The TUC states on its website that it “has been involved in all the campaigns to end legal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity”. It also provides resources to union reps to inform on LGBT issues such as mental health and aid with campaigning.

Nowak concluded his speech with an international focus, saying: “To address the injustices facing LGBT people across the world requires international action, and unions have to lead the way. Our movement has never walked by on the other side and we are not about to start now.”

Other motions discussed at this year’s conference include: LGBT workers’ involvement in union activity, gender identity prejudice in education, and the question of survivor pensions, a review of which has just been published.