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TUC respond to Theresa May: "Now is the time for action"

ACTION: The Trades Union Congress believe changes in the workplace are nigh

LAST AUGUST, Prime Minister Theresa May announced an initiative to tackle public services racial inequalities. In a bid to reassure black voters that the Government was taking race equality seriously, she said:

“This audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before. It is only by doing so, we can make this country work for everyone, not just a privileged few.”

The aim, we are told, is also to allow members of the public to access data showing how their race might affect how they are dealt with in areas such as work, education and the NHS.

For people in the black community that are experiencing problems in work, having trouble getting their children into the nearest schools or are trying to cope with a lack of access to healthcare for family members, access to data is no solution. They do not need validation of these problems through government data, but for the Government to take action against discrimination.

That is not to say that monitoring is not important. The Trades Union Congress (TUC), led by General Secretary Frances O’Grady, believes that ethnic monitoring is a valuable tool to tackling racial discrimination at work.

We believe that not only should all companies ethnically monitor their workforce, but should publish the results. Only when people see the size of the problem do they feel the need to act on it.

This belief was echoed by Ruby McGregor–Smith, former chief executive of the multinational company Mitie, in a report commissioned by the former Prime Minister David Cameron. She recommended that government should legislate to ensure that all companies employing more than 50 people publish workforce data by race and pay band.

Unfortunately, Mrs May’s response has been to argue that, in the first instance, the best method is a business-led, voluntary approach and not legislation as a way of bringing about lasting change.

Sadly, Mrs May has missed the point that companies have had decades to change things by a voluntary approach.

The 1976 Race Relations Act was based on the idea that if you created laws and improved practice in the public sector, the private sector would follow suit. But as Baroness McGregor-Smith’s report illustrates, this has not worked.

Her report showed that:

• The economy would benefit by £24 billion if race discrimination in the workplace did not exist.

• In 2015, one in eight of the working age population were from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background, but BAME people make up only 10 per cent of the workforce and hold only six per cent of top management positions.

• The employment rate for ethnic minorities is only 62.8 per cent, compared with an employment rate of 75.6 per cent for a white worker.

The Government has made no announcement about how it is going to address these inequalities or the problems that black communities face in accessing public services.

The TUC believes that the time for rhetoric about tackling inequalities in our society is over.

At a time when black communities are facing high levels of unemployment, disproportionate levels of job insecurity and problems accessing public services because of huge cuts and increased levels of racism in our workplace and streets, warm words about shining a light on injustices is not enough.

Now is the time for action.

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