Congress today collectively deplored the high levels of unemployment, marginalisation and discrimination black workers experience in the labour market.
With the passing of motion 38, Congress agreed to lobby the government to close the racial inequality gaps in the UK, with specific measures to close the racial gaps in employment, pay and pensions.
“The levels of employee marginalisation and discrimination faced by black workers would appear to be ever rising,” Carol Sewell from the TUC Black Worker’s Conference, told delegates in moving the motion.
“Black workers are noticeably under-represented in senior management, and a disproportionate high level of black workers are still in lower paid jobs,” she added.
Why aren’t we in the room?
Michelle Codrington-Rogers, Nasuwt, meanwhile asked Congress to look internally within their own trade unions and work with black members to have their voices heard.
“I am going to ask you to go back to your workplace and ask your black members what you can do for them. And send them to the annual black workers’ conference,” she said.
Despite the growth of events like the TUC Black Workers Conference and the growth of the NASUWT Black Teachers Conference, which she said had grown from 20 to 400 attendees in the time she had been attending, black workers were still underrepresented in the TUC.
“I am asking where are we in the room? Where are we in this room?” she said, to applause.
“A strong confident union is not scared to look internally,” she said.
“I am proud of my union for looking internally and asking these questions,” she added.
Austerity and race intrinsically linked
Alongside evidence of an ethnic pay penalty, black workers are over-represented in casual, temporary and minimum wage jobs with high levels of in-work poverty, Congress heard.
“Austerity isn’t working. We know that all too well; but imagine if you were black or Asian or an ethnic minority worker,” Satman Ner from Prospect said.
“Unemployment is at around one out of three black workers, it is one of four for white workers. Those working in temporary work has grown at a rate of 58% over the last five years compared to the national average of 11%. One of 20 Black workers is in zero hours employment, whereas the national average is one of 36.”
“In every stage black workers are worse off,” he said.
Congress heard from Mohammed Shafiq, PCS, who told Congress of his own experiences tackling racism in the workplace.
“We need to recognise the inherent institutional racism that exists in some industries. 1 in 3 black workers are in insecure jobs - 1 in 20 for white workers,” he added.
“Our trade union has been in the firing line of highlighting the evil of racism in the workplace,” he said, adding that the PCS and other unions were often the “only support” black workers have in the workplace.
With the passing of the motion, the TUC will also lobby to extend the statutory equality duty to private companies bidding for public services contracts and remove employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 “that have allowed discrimination to flourish and restricted access to justice in employment and discrimination cases”.
It will also ensure adequate funding of the EHRC to enforce protection from discrimination at work and produce an action plan and proactive campaign strategy for a better deal for black workers in the labour market.