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The discourse of diversity in unionised contexts: views from trade union equality officers

[Gill Kirton, Queen Mary, University of London] and Anne-marie Greene
Personnel Review, 34, 431-448


The purpose of this paper is to address the little researched question of how trade unions have interpreted and engaged with the discourse of diversity adopted by many organisations to replace the traditional “equal opportunities” discourse. The paper identifies three main features of the diversity discourse, which cause concern from the trade union perspective: its business-driven nature, its focus on the individual and its positioning as a top-down managerial activity. The main concern expressed was that the upbeat rhetoric of the diversity discourse diverts attention from the realities of discrimination and disadvantage. However, the discussion concludes that unions believe it is possible to work critically with diversity in order to pursue equality objectives.