Friday, 3 October 2008

Challenging Racism in the Workplace


On Monday and Tuesday next week I am with activists from UNISON's local government branch at Wolverhampton City Council. I'm delivering a course that is part of the union's national project on challenging racism at work.

This course aims to challenge public sector employers to meet their duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The act arose as a result of the murder of Stephen Lawrence (pictured here) and commits public authorities to a range of general and specific duties in tackling institutional racism as it affects employees and service users.
The McPherson inquiry delivered a damning assessment of the Metropolitan Police at the time and I have since then worked with a wide range of public sector unions to address institutional racism and implement the duties within the act. Many trade union activists within the public sector however, will still argue that institutional racism is a feature of central and local government activity.
What is to be done?
I'd be interested in your own personal perpsective of the issues facing activists (public/private/third sector) in tackling issues around race discrimination in the workplace.
What works, what doesn't etc?


red said...

Tricky one this.

The Race Relations Act hadn't beaten racism out of any workplace. And if it can't eradicate it from the relatively softer forum of the public sector it sure as hell has no chance in the private sector.

Nor can I see what difference the Amendment Act will make. Sure enough it was right to use this to batter the Met and maybe (maybe?) there is some change there - although the Gaffur and Diazi cases suggest not. Worse still I think the resigation of Blair will not help.

There must be a significant push on diversifying leadership in the public sector. And I don't mean just stuffing it with middle class twats either. Support and push upwards frontline staff - the kind of people who really still have a public service ethos and don't just hanker after large salaries and an MBE or even lordship.

The sad reality is that large numbers of public sector leaders neither care about or understand what causes racism and what its actual impacts are. Until these leaders change no fundamental change on the issue can come.

Good luck next week by the way - you'll need it!

Peter said...


Apologies for not engaging in any of your posted questions. Life here has been hectic as you can imagine.

It surprises me that the UK can believe that the law is the best solution to eradicate something that is psychological.

As we have discussed before, the prejudice that breeds discrimination is based on centuries of imperialist concepts of black=other and black=problem.

The law is useful but the real work must take place in the classroom.

UK trade unions must go back to old-style consciousness raising. This was done effectively years ago by bodies like the WEA to enable shop stewards what class position they occupy and why in the UK you had to have political and indutrial wings of the same movement.

Ultimately it is down to the trade union movement (as ever) to radicalise activists and members so it is they - and not the employer - that object to discriminatory behaviour in their midst and seek to cast it out.

Can you trust the employer to do the right thing - even with the pressure of statute?

God Bless


Ian Manborde said...

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for contributing to the blog.

As ever, I am not surprised that you look at the scene in the UK and wonder why we are in such a wretched state.

Your comments about consciousness are entirely apt and during your time at Ruskin College I always understood their relevance to UK trade unionism.

If only you had the time to come back to the UK to aid this process of radicalisation you would be very, very welcome.

As ever Peter, your perspective is welcome.

My very best wishes to you and your family


TGWU Rep said...

All of those who have posted.

The single most important issue raised here is that we meet the employer head-on with any examples of their racist practice.

Simply put, we are too late in the day to allow any form of racist or discriminatory practice to feature as method of management peregorative.