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

Gill Kirton*, Anne Marie Greene

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose - 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. Design/methodology/approach - Drawing on interviews with national trade union equality officers, the paper presents a discourse-based analysis, exploring what the shift towards a diversity discourse means for trade unions. Findings - 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. Originality/value - The paper offers an original perspective on the diversity discourse, and within the field of employment relations, an unusual analytical approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-448
Number of pages18
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Discrimination in employment
  • Equal opportunities
  • Social groups
  • Trade unions

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