Tracey, the black members’ officer for Revenue and Customs Liverpool branch and a member of HMRC black members’ advisory group, shares her experience as a first-time delegate at the TUC Black Workers’ Conference
I attended the TUC Black Workers’ Conference for the first time this year as a PCS delegate with two other new delegates, Levoy Getton and Heather Coppin. The rest of the delegation were experience delegates Angela Grant, Zita Holbourne and Mohammed Shafiq.
Before the conference started we had a pre-meeting to discuss processes and motions so we were aware of the union’s position on motions, and we agreed on speakers for particular issues.
The conference was formally opened and a speech made by the TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, and then business began. Unsurprisingly the first motion was an emergency motion on the current Windrush Generation crisis, and the motion was passed unanimously. Zita Holbourne also read a statement on behalf of the TUC Race Relations Committee on the issue.
There was a powerful speech on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the killing of Stephen Lawrence from his father, Neville Lawrence, followed by a minute’s silence, which was repeated on the actual anniversary on Sunday. Following this I took to the stage as a delegate for the first time to be the seconder for the GMB’s motion, Trade Unions Leading on Diversity which stresses the need for visible BAME representation across all levels of the trade union movement. Levoy Getton then spoke eloquently on motion 5 from the NEU, Barriers to Progression.
50 years of the Race Relations Act
On the second day, Saturday, we heard from Lord Herman Ousley who reflected on another theme of the conference, 50 years of the Race Relations Act, giving an insightful perspective on the wins made, historical incidents and the work still needed to be done. There was also an excellent presentation and speech made to commemorate Ambalavener Sivandan, the Sri Lankan novelist and Emeritus Director of the Institute of Race Relations who sadly passed in January, and how he was ahead of his time in his intersectional approach of race, class and gender. Later in the day I spoke in support of motion 9 from Unison on Black Workers and In-Work Poverty.
In the afternoon we heard from Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell. Zita moved PCS’s motion, The Rise of Racism and Facism in Europe which was passed unanimously.
At lunch time there was a packed PCS fringe meeting on Challenging Racist and Sexist Violence. Angela Grant spoke at the conference on the Race Pay Equality Gap and Mohammed Shafiq spoke on Racism and impact on Health and Safety.
On Sunday, I spoke in support of motion 18 from RCM, RMT and CSP, Suspend Charging Migrant Women for Maternity Care.
Heather Coppin spoke on the final motion, 20, Stop the Senseless Youth Killings, a very poignant issue in light of the anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s killing and the fact there had been a killing of a youth in London the previous night. Other speakers also gave very emotive, personal perspectives on the issue.
The conference voted for an issue to go forward to main TUC conference, motion 3 from Unite on Automation and Its Impact on Black Workers. During the conference Zita highlighted how this affects changes via digitalisation in the civil service and raised awareness of the upcoming ACAS strikes.
It was very empowering being in a room with more than 200 BAME trade unionists and hearing such inspirational speakers. Everyone was focussed on the work that needed to be done but there was also a genuine vibe of being amongst community and embracing it. I would definitely recommend others to take up the opportunity and have a go themselves in the future.