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Protecting black workers rights at work

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS: Black workers are one of the most affected groups by the growth of insecure employment

THE SCOURGE of race discrimination in the labour market continues to blight the ambitions and aspirations of Black workers in the labour market.

The recently published (February 28 2017) Government’s McGregor-Smith Review Race in the Workplace reports that people from Black and minority backgrounds are being held back in the workplace because of the colour of their skin – costing the UK economy an estimated £24 billion – the equivalent of 1.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) a year.

This cost to the economy is huge but the personal cost of racism and sustained levels of race discrimination to individuals earning, living standards, health and well-being is immeasurable.

The Review also found that unemployment rates are 12 per cent lower that for their white counterparts and that just 6 per cent reach top level management positions and concluded that now is the time to act.

A key action that the Government should take is to publish a comprehensive race equality strategy.

Despite more that fifty years of race equality legislation in the UK, progress remains slow and the emerging trend since the British Referendum to leave the European Union, in June 2016 shows that the levels of racially motivated abuse, attacks and violence are increasing.

In 2015, the largest ever review of race equality in Great Britain, conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) concluded that “stark inequalities” remain.

The EHRC’s Report Healing a divided Britain: the need for a comprehensive race equality strategy painted an “alarming picture of the challenges to equality of opportunity that still remain in modern 21st Century Britain” as highlighted by the EHRC’s Chair.

The report highlighted “fundamental issues, including persistent disparities in employment, structural inequalities and injustices, discrimination and racism continue to be part of our society today”.

In addition, its report Is Britain Fairer found that between 2010 and 2014, long term unemployment for young black people aged 18 to 24 increased by 49 per cent compared with a 2 per cent decrease for young white people.

By Gloria Mills National Secretary Equalities

What is also startling is that recent surveys of some major apprenticeships schemes found that they do not include Black or ethnic minority apprentices and many are concentrated in low-level apprenticeships and those in low paying sectors.

Black workers are disproportionately affected by the growth in insecure and low paid employment, characterised by casual, temporary, zero hours and agency contracts.

The TUC Report Living on the Margins showed that 11 per cent of Black employees in temporary employment compared with 6 per cent of white employees.

Pay inequality is high and the gap continues to widen. TUC analysis shows Black workers with degrees earn a quarter less, on average, than white workers with degrees.

This litany of research reinforces the findings of the UNISON commissioned Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) and research which found that disproportionate levels of job losses in public services have eroded Black workers position in employment.

UNISON will be working to protect our hard won gains – equality, employment and workers’ rights in light of Britain’s exiting of the EU.

We will press for effective checks and balance, safeguard and effective parliamentary scrutiny to ensure no dilution and diminution in equal treatment, health and safety, working time and other EU-derived employment and equal rights.

We will continue to challenge racism in the workplace and beyond building trade union capacity, recruiting and organising; and encouraging workers to join trade unions.

UNISON is challenging in the Supreme Court the introduction of prohibitive employment tribunal fees in July 2013, which has led to a 78 per cent drop in the number of claims on race cases a year after its introduction.

These discriminatory practices, unfairness, unequal treatment and omissions must be challenge and the enforcement regulators need to hold organisations to account for failure to comply with equality law and the public sector equality duty.

Public procurement must be used as a lever to accelerate progress and eliminate race discrimination.

Companies that fail to recruit a diverse and representative workforce, that looks like Britain today should not be rewarded with public service contracts.

There are huge challenges ahead but together we are stronger and will campaign to ensure that there is no slide towards social regression or a race to the bottom in terms of the UK adopting inferior rights compared with workers in the EU.

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