Congress condemns centuries of racism and colonialism powerfully exposed by Black Lives Matter and unites in opposing structural inequality, discrimination and entrenched disadvantage faced by women, Black and Asian ethnic minority workers, disabled and LGBT+ workers, including the decade of austerity, which have meant unequal exposure, disproportionate impact and deaths from Covid-19.
Congress believes that the coronavirus outbreak has exposed fundamental inequalities and institutional discrimination in the UK’s economy and society. Women and Black and Asian ethnic minority workers are over-represented in low paid, undervalued occupations and sectors our society now finds essential, where the risk factor is high.
Congress condemns the unequal treatment that has left:
i. BME workers at much higher risk: Black men face a mortality risk from coronavirus that is 3.3 times higher than that of white men, and Black women facing a risk of death that is 2.4 times higher than that of white women
ii. sharp gender disparities: 75 per cent of workers in occupations most exposed to coronavirus are women
iii. disabled people at twice the risk of death compared to people who are not disabled
iv. mortality rates in the most deprived areas that were more than double those in the least deprived areas
v. older workers and other at-risk groups not receiving the protection and support they need
vi. younger workers bearing the worst economic burden from job losses and hours reductions.
Congress deplores the UK government’s and employers’ inaction in carrying out risk assessments to prevent the foreseeable deaths of Black workers from Covid-19.
Congress expresses deep frustration and anger that, despite the efforts of families, campaigners and trade unions, and promises of change, Britain appears no closer to eradicating institutional and other racism.
The disproportionate deaths and hospitalisations of Black people is a national scandal. Black people are up to four times as likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. This devastating toll has exposed decades of entrenched inequality and systematic racism in work and wider society.
The coronavirus does not discriminate; however, it does exploit the disadvantages, deprivation and health and social inequalities that are driven and maintained by the institutional and structural racism that is common across the UK. Black workers lack confidence both that their concerns about the health risks of Covid-19 are being taken seriously and that they will be treated fairly if raising concerns about Covid-19 risks at work. Congress notes new analysis by the Labour Party that suggests inner city areas with much higher than average Black, Asian and minority ethnic populations have among the highest rates of furloughed staff. Therefore, workers in these areas could be at a higher risk of redundancy.
In a study published in July, the Kings Fund found that in the NHS – Britain’s biggest employer – BME staff feel they have not been given equal opportunities to progress in their careers and that they have been denied developmental opportunities that come readily to white colleagues. Very few people at the most senior levels of the NHS reflect them. And, on top of that, each working day can mean facing a range of micro-aggressions. The most recent NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report found that 29 per cent of BME staff face bullying, harassment or abuse from colleagues, an increase on the previous year.
From three case studies of NHS employers, the think-tank identified changes that could make a difference: improving staff development and career progression, providing psychologically safe routes for raising concerns (specifically by appointing ‘freedom to speak up’ guardians) and staff networks.
Covid’s disproportionate impact on the BME community has highlighted long-standing, structural race inequality. The killing of George Floyd has brought into focus not only police brutality against people of colour, but also global inequalities in health, education and employment. Racism has deepened and been amplified by over ten years of austerity. The death of George Floyd has led to a growing Black Lives Matter movement globally, including the UK. Systemic and everyday racism, Brexit, austerity, deaths at the hands of the state, hostile environment and Windrush scandal have led to a steady worsening of racism.
Covid-19 is having a disproportionate adverse impact on the health, lives and livelihood of Black people. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the impacts of racism in all aspects of society and in the labour market, with BME people contracting and dying of Covid-19 in disproportionate numbers. Black Lives Matter.
Continued warm words from governments are not enough and action is needed today. Employers, governments, public bodies and regulators must be properly resourced and held to account for their duty of care, legal and lawful responsibilities. This includes, but is not limited to, the Health and Safety Executive, the Care Quality Commission (and devolved equivalents), the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the departments of the Westminster, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments.
Ten years after the Equality Act 2010, Congress condemns the government’s failure to enact Section 1 to redress socio-economic and class inequalities; the removal of third party harassment suffered by front line workers during the pandemic; the removal of dual discrimination to enable BME women to challenge dual discrimination they have faced; and the use of Covid-19 to lift gender pay reporting requirements, and much more.
There have been numerous reports and investigations into racism, and while noting that the government have established a new temporary commission to look into racism, we feel that there is no lack of evidence: quite the opposite – the evidence is there and what’s needed is action.
Unions are the voice of working people. Solidarity is central to our movement but solidarity alone is not enough – unions must be a driving force in anti-racist campaigning to bring about immediate, sustained action to end inequality.
Congress calls on the TUC to continue and extend its work in this area, campaigning on the national and international stage as well as in workplaces.
Congress welcomes the decision by the TUC to renew the TUC Stephen Lawrence task group in order to tackle some of these issues.
Congress calls for action and for the TUC General Council with TUC Women’s, Black Workers, Disabled Workers and LGBT+ Committees to:
a. build on the achievements of the Stephen Lawrence Task Group to address institutional racism and all forms of institutional sexism, disability and LGBT+ discrimination and structural inequality
b. ensure equality impact assessments alongside risk assessments as a legal requirement
c. prioritise safety, jobs and income, with action to:
– close gender pay gaps, identify and close ethnicity and other equality pay gaps, protect pregnant women, support childcare and caring
– rebuild and strengthen the Equality Act and EHRC, including statutory rights for union equality representatives and union equality education
d. research and develop a campaign for policies to protect and compensate the groups most affected by coronavirus
e. support mandatory individual risk assessments for workers in at-risk groups
f. recognise that hundreds of workers have died due to institutional discrimination
g. campaign for an end to discriminatory labour market policies, including age-based redundancy payments
h. lobby government for action for change, presenting recommendations in consultation with the TUC Race Relations Committee and Black trade union structures
i. engage and work with grassroots Black race equality community organisations including offering solidarity/support to the wider UK Black Lives Matter movement and offering practical assistance for protests and demonstrations
j. hold a virtual organising event on how unions can support the BLM movement
k. ensure the new TUC race equality task group includes the voices of Black trade unionists and undertake a robust and open review of the progress made by the TUC and affiliates in tackling racism within our own organisational structures
l. campaign vigorously again the disproportionate impacts on Black workers, service users and communities of the economic downturn that the coronavirus crisis has caused and will continue to do so.
Congress calls on the General Council and the TUC to campaign for:
- a public inquiry into deaths in minority communities
- risk assessments for Black workers and appropriate PPE
- the implementation of the Windrush Lessons Learned review
- implementation of the Lammy review of the justice system
- the closing of the ethnic pay gap
- governments to act on Theresa May’s comprehensive Race Disparity Audit
- the UK government to enact the public sector duty on socio-economic inequalities contained in Part 1 of the Equality Act
- the decolonisation of public services including building names, signage, awards, conventions, practices, monuments and artefacts associated with an unacceptable and shameful racist past.
Supporters: GMB; Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; Artists’ Union England, NASUWT; Public and Commercial Services Union; Prospect; Royal College of Midwives; Community