GMB launches Scotland's first sex workers' union

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Sex workers in Scotland can join a trade union for the first time.

The GMB union has launched a new adult entertainment branch, which will invite members from across Scotland, and include transgender and BME representatives.

The sex workers who fought for the creation of the branch now hope to shape future prostitution legislation.

They say they want to take the sex out of sex work and be protected as workers.

Rhea Wolfson, GMB organiser for Glasgow, was instrumental in setting up the branch.

'Improve working conditions'

She told the BBC Scotland news website: "For many years, GMB has supported the decriminalisation of sex work to better protect workers. Sex work is work and it should be safe.

"We are hoping it will become a fully established branch run like any other with elected post holders running autonomous campaigns."

Ms Wolfson said there was huge support for sex workers to collaborate on making the industry safe and to improve working conditions.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brothels are illegal in Scotland, with a brothel considered anywhere where more than one sex worker is operating

She said: "People are waking up to the reality that if sex workers are treated differently then that is discrimination."

The union, and the sex workers it represents, believe that Scotland has harmful laws on brothel-keeping which isolate sex workers and leave them without protection.

An indoor sex business becomes an illegal brothel when it involves more than one worker, meaning sex workers have to operate alone.

In 2017 the Scottish government voted to adopt the "Nordic model", replicating Scandinavian laws where individuals who pay for sex are criminalised, but those who sell sex are not.

Selling sex is not illegal in Scotland but there are strict laws against "soliciting" (street prostitution) and brothel-keeping.

'Unseen workforce'

Glasgow sex worker Megara Furie fought for the creation of the union branch.

She said it was "about giving workers the autonomy to be able to run their business however they see fit, as long as it is safe".

The GMB's adult entertainment branch is open to anyone in the adult entertainment industry, including strippers, burlesque and go-go dancers, video cam workers, people who make pornography - any form of sexual labour.

Ms Wolfson hopes this is just the beginning of a conversation which actually involves those working in the industry.

She said sex workers had been "excluded" from Holyrood discussion of laws involving prostitution.

She said: "There is an estimate there could be about 80,000 people working in the sex industry across the UK. It is a huge unseen workforce and we need to make sure their voices are heard because for so long they have been shut out of the conversation.

"Sex work is work and deserves the right to legal protection."

The Scottish government has been contacted for comment.