It is the duty of all union members to fight racism, delegates at UNISON’s local government conference in Liverpool were told yesterday.
Black workers in local government face multiple forms of discrimination, including bullying, racial harassment and a lack of opportunities for promotion.
An independent review found that 30% of those from a Black background reported witnessing or experiencing racial harassment or bullying from management in the last five years, while 29% of Black Caribbean employees felt that they had been overlooked for promotion because of their ethnicity.
To help tackle these issues, UNISON has declared 2023 the Year of Black Workers.
James Minto, of the union’s Black members committee, said: “We want to make this year a legacy for change.”
Proposing a motion on securing this legacy, Mr Minto called for the local government service group executive to take action including:
organising the recruitment of more Black workers;
supporting Black workers to become more active within the union and their workplaces;
supporting branches to work with employers to develop a strategy to reduce the pay gap between Black and other workers;
and developing a training plan to ensure that all activists within the service group receive training in race discrimination.
Delegates voted to support this motion.
Mr Minto also spoke about the impact of the Covid pandemic on Black people, including the disproportionate number of deaths. “The pandemic emphasised the structural inequalities faced by Black people,” he said.
Another delegate cited the example of Black traffic wardens in Camden, London, who as UNISON members have gone on strike three times to secure better pay. “We now have a high membership density among these traffic wardens. This kind of strike action can help secure the legacy of the Year of Black Workers,” she said.