Culture group black members call for action to tackle inequality in the sector

29 Jun 2020

Below is the statement and call to action written by the culture group black members and endorsed by the group executive committee

A call for action

We are issuing the below as an unequivocal statement of support for Black Lives Matter on account of the recent police killing of George Floyd in the USA. We do this fraternally in the knowledge that racism is not only a spectre haunting our USA sisters, brothers and comrades but that it also affects us here in the UK.

So many Black people have died unnecessarily as a direct result of police brutality in the UK. Just in the past 5 weeks there have been 3 new cases. On 9 May, the police had a black woman in such a tight chokehold that she cried out “I can’t breathe” but it wasn’t reported until 1 June. On 30 May a black ambulance driver in South London was accused of being a drug pusher and arrested. The police accused a black presenter of The Chase, Shaun Wallace, on 10 June of robbery until they spotted his barrister robes.

Overwhelming numbers of PCS Culture members are BAME/POC, who tend to be cleaners, security guards, admin staff, and gallery/museum assistants. Within this context we stand in solidarity with the plight of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (henceforth BAME) people facing racial injustice.

We cannot fail to note with a bitter irony, the pious sentiments from many art and culture institution CEOs concerning racial prejudice. In an article for the Guardian on 15 February, Clive Nwonka asked the question “The arts were supposed to champion diversity. What went wrong?”

Before the current protests and demonstrations, COVID-19 was already having a devastating effect on our communities, with 300-400 having died. In our own union, we also suffered and have sadly lost PCS members to COVID-19. Our deepest condolences go to their friends and families.  We cannot underestimate the impact of this collective trauma on our communities, which comes on top of the everyday and institutional racism we live with.

Our communities face constant race discrimination at work and in the labour market. We are in frontline jobs, often working precariously and bearing the brunt of cuts. This lack of racial justice is an outcome of broader structural issues. These have become particularly apparent during the COVID-19 crisis, as seen by the disproportionate negative impacts on BAME communities and the worsening of already entrenched disparities. We have not forgotten the Windrush scandal, which has seen people deported and others made destitute, most have still not received compensation.

Many cultural institutions are ‘hostile environments’, where BAME staff experience racism, with thousands of racist incidents not addressed and have structures that work against properly tackling racism. This is of particular concern given just how much BAME staff is disadvantaged because of slow action on diversity and systemic racism in UK higher education.  There is a lack of open and honest discussion and action in our workforces on diversity, equality and the pay gap. It is essential to also note that, for Black women and women of colour the situation is particularly dire concerning pay, promotion and training opportunities. As such, we think that significantly more ought to be done than solely statements of support for #BlackLivesMatter. Much greater effort is needed on racial equality through secure full-time employment, equal pay, access to support and resources, more equitable workloads and closing the BAME attainment gap.

We hope that this statement and the information therein can serve as a reminder about the importance of ensuring that racism and enduring racialised inequalities are dealt with. These matters impact on our wellbeing profoundly.

This recognition needs to be met with a set of real, active, meaningful and committed actions - not just beliefs.

This action list is a starting point for addressing decades of marginalisation and unfairness embedded in Cultural institution structures. We suggest that CEO boards across culture, heritage, media and sport workplaces can demonstrate their commitment to racial justice by considering, at least to start with, the following measures: 

  • Eliminate the racial pay gap, openly publish this information and draw up a plan to eliminate it.
  • Establish protections against privatisation, casualisation, and exploitation, overwork and for mental health
  • Put in place recruitment panels/hiring committees that have clear guidelines, accountability mechanisms and training in place to consider issues around race and equality. BAME members should be on such panels/committees. 
  • Implement anti-discriminatory support measures for BAME staff and put in place a set of accountable, procedures for promotion, including an external review process.
  • Improve dedicated anti-racism training and make it mandatory for all levels of staff, entailing ongoing refreshers to stamp out racist harassment and bullying and call out injustice every single time.
  • Record racial breakdown of disciplinary investigations and outcomes. Investigate racial bias in grievance, performance reviews and appraisals, Publish the results and draw up plans to eliminate any discrimination.
  • Develop and implement strategic and meaningful initiatives with BAME community organisations in staff development and work placement schemes. Organisations that have a good record in addressing disparities in education, income, employment, environmental racism, incarceration rates and healthcare, among others should be enlisted and supported.  
  • Introduce a well-funded mentorship programme for BAME staff and provide sufficient resources for these programmes, including paid mentors.

Please demonstrate your support and solidarity with our campaign if you work in a UK culture, heritage, media or sport institution by insisting your employers make a serious commitment to carry out and deliver on the 8 points of action. 

We also welcome and encourage all anti-racist allies to join us in raising these issues by adding your name to our campaign statement form

Together we can take the vital steps of inclusive, concrete, strategic and systematic actions to genuinely encourage our BAME staff to thrive in the UK.

In solidarity,

PCS Culture Group Black Members' Committee

Endorsed by PCS Culture Group Executive Committee

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