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Why black workers went on strike

COMMENTS: Zita Holbourne

BLACK PUBLIC sector workers are on strike today (June 30) because the cuts to pensions, jobs and pay impact disproportionately on us.

The public sector is the biggest employment sector for black people and black women in particular because of the discrimination in the private sector meaning we don't even get a foot in the door.

In the public sector whilst we are highly concentrated, that concentration is in the lowest grades with the lowest salaries because of the discrimination we face in appraisal, promotion and progression. It is these lower grade jobs that will bear the brunt of the cuts.

The pay gap between black and white workers which the last government was supposed to close is widening and the pay freeze in the Civil Service is a pay cut in real terms, taking into account the rise in the cost of living. Many black workers will have to claim the very benefits some of them administer in the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) because their salaries are so low.

The proposed changes to pensions meaning that we are expected to work longer to receive a pension and pay in more will also have a harder impact on black workers. Black people live in the poorest communities and receive the lowest incomes – twice as many black and minority ethnic children live in poverty in comparison with their white counterparts. The poorer you are the lower your life expectancy meaning that many black workers will not even benefit from their full pension once retired. The average civil service pension is £80 a week and less than half the national minimum wage.

The cuts that Civil Servants, Teachers and Lecturers are taking strike action over tomorrow are part of a wider attack by the con-dem coalition which is not just impacting on us at work but as service users, our families and communities.

The cuts to the public sector have a knock on effect on the voluntary sector with cuts to funding meaning that organisations providing specialised services that black people rely on in their local communities will no longer be available.

The cuts to EMA and tripling of tuition fees will mean that black students cannot afford to gain further education which in turn has a knock on impact on their future career prospects, standard of living and the black economy.
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK was founded by myself and Lee Jasper to respond to the disproportionate impact of cuts on black communities, service users and workers. BARAC is a key part of the PCS campaign against the discrimination of cuts. We are supporting the strikes tomorrow under the banner of ‘No to Cuts, No to Racism, Everybody Out’.

It is essential that we stand together against every cut because they are all part of the same agenda. We call on the public and the black public in particular to support the strikes by visiting picket lines and attending the rallies and marches across the UK because we are not just fighting for our jobs, pay and pensions, we are fighting against all cuts and all cuts impact on every single one of us. If teachers are cut and civil servants are cut it impacts on our children in schools and colleges and the services we depend on.

In addition, as housing and jobs are cut the far right will blame black people and accuse us of taking housing and jobs and this is another key reason why we must fight the racism of cuts as it is not just about the disproportionate impact.

PCS is one of the unions representing civil service and other public sector staff

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