Congress asserts that racism in the UK is not history but a daily experience for Black workers. Black workers, under-protected and over-exposed to Covid-19, had additional vulnerabilities created by a lifetime experience of structural racism, from housing to healthcare to work.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted endemic inequalities throughout most of society.
Congress notes the RCP has seen the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on its women members, who have been impacted with childcare issues, poorly fitting PPE, being disadvantaged due to maternity issues and domestic violence. Our disabled members have juggled with their need to work while being told to shield, but not being eligible for the “benefits” offered by the government. Our BME members are having difficulties with accessing alternative PPE when beards, turbans and hijabs have not been taken into account. Our LGBT+ members have faced lockdown away from their supportive communities and were forced into environments of prejudice.
These issues will not go away even if we manage to deal with Covid-19 in the long-term.
i. A 2021 UNISON survey of Black staff in social care found:
- 46 per cent of respondents had experienced racism at work in the previous year.
- 60 per cent felt able to raise concerns about infection control with their employer.
- 21 per cent said they would get no sick pay at all if they needed to self-isolate.
ii. TUC research also exposed the over-representation of Black workers in insecure work. The tragic death toll of Black workers during the pandemic should have renewed a commitment to tackle racism. Instead, the government minimised the reality of racism and dismissed the concept of institutional racism.
iii. In the NHS, the most recent staff survey showed that Black workers were significantly more likely to be deployed to a Covid work area, and significantly less likely to be able to work flexibly or from home, than their white colleagues.
iv. In late 2020, the government published the long-awaited report into the gap in pay in medicine due to an individual’s sex, which shone welcome light on the career-long inequalities facing women hospital doctors. Its recommendations were meaningful and wide-ranging.
Congress is however dismayed that the government has to date resisted calls to carry out a similar exercise to investigate the causes of, and issue recommendations to remedy, the ethnicity pay gap within the medical profession.
Congress notes that this gap is particularly visible among the most senior grades, with minority ethnic hospital consultants earning around 5 per cent less than their white peers. There is also significant overrepresentation of BME doctors in lower-paid medical grades.
Congress also recognises that there is a significant ethnicity pay gap for Black workers classed under medical and non-medical grades in the NHS, and that Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers are more likely to work in lower paid roles in social care.
Congress believes that a complex range of factors have led to this inequality, both in financial terms and in terms of career opportunity, and that this issue must be taken seriously by the government, its drivers properly assessed, and remedial action taken to correct this unjust imbalance.
Where the government steps back, the trade union movement must step forward and Congress welcomes the creation of the TUC taskforce and its work.
Congress calls on the General Council to:
a. produce resources to support the work of trade unions in:
- negotiating for race equality in the workplace
- training for reps and activists to track and challenge racism
- tackling the ethnicity pay gap
- supporting Black workers’ self-organisation.
b. challenge the government’s attempts to dilute and repress efforts to tackle racism
c. call on all political parties to work on a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities, increase investment in prevention and public health, and tackle the underlying socio-economic inequalities at the root of preventable ill health and mortality
d. support the campaign to close the ethnicity pay gap in medicine and allied professions and lobby for an independent government-commissioned review to make recommendations so that all hospital doctors, no matter their ethnic background, have an equal opportunity to advance through the medical profession.
Seconder: Royal College of Podiatry
Supporters: Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, GMB, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy