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New union wages war on workplace discrimination

DIFFERENT BUT EQUAL: Marcia Lawrence-Russell with Altaf Kara, CEO of Saffron Solicitors

WITH RACISM and other forms of discrimination still key issues in today’s workplace, a unique new union has just been launched which is already proving to be a powerful advocate for those who need it most.

Marcia Lawrence-Russell, a Birmingham-based former social worker, set up Different But Equal (DBE) four months ago, a community interest company which also has an associated union called Equal Justice.

And what makes this union different from any other is that it has no political slant and supports the person as a whole rather than simply offering advice from a professional perspective.

It means membership is open to anyone from health workers and lawyers to council staff and hospitality workers. Membership is increasing steadily offering protection, representation and advice for people from some of the most discriminated groups in the country.

Birmingham City Council, the city’s largest employer, has agreed to Equal Justice representing its staff, which is quite a coup for a new union.

Marcia, a former head of service for advice and representation with the British Association of Social Workers, told The Voice: “The overall objective is to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the workplace and deal with it holistically.

“There is still so much discrimination out there. I find it worrying when I speak to young people under-25 about whether they are in a union. I get a lot of blank looks – some don’t even know what a union does.”

Marcia has teamed up with Birmingham-based Saffron Solicitors at their Hagley Road base who she feels ‘have our heart at their heart’ to offer expert legal advice.

While community activist Desmond Jaddoo has been invited to become president of Equal Justice and chair of Different But Equal until elections take place next year.

He said: “Tackling discrimination in the workplace has always been a passion of mine following my own experience of race and disability discrimination. It’s quite alarming to find that the level of support that was lacking in my day is still lacking today.

“We’re aware that many African Caribbeans are not union members and that’s why they end up getting the tough end of the deal in workplace disputes. The historical nature of trade unions has always been political, but there is no political slant to this union which makes it unique. It’s a totally different approach.”

At only 18 pence a day, annual subscription rates for DBE are competitive at just £65 with the union membership being automatically free.

Members also benefit from a number of other services including a mentoring project, a monthly newsletter, quarterly regional networking meetings, access to training, and the chance to take part in lobbying activities

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