Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Living in the Margins

Government cuts are having a disproportionate impact
on those services geared towards black communities.

I spent a highly productive day today with a group of UNISON shop stewards at the union’s West Midlands Regional Centre focusing on the skills and knowledge needed to handle members’ cases which centre around race discrimination.

Part of the discussion focused on the relative paucity of the employer’s duty to undertake equality impact assessments as an aspect of the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act (2010).

Even the EHRC acknowledges that in the current era of austerity cuts are having a direct impact on equal treatment in the delivery of public sector services and the TUC, amongst many others, have been doing a good job of authoritatively evidencing the specific dire gender-specific impact of the cuts agenda:

Thankfully the way forward for trade unionists, and the millions of people in the UK affected by Coalition policy, is being charted by people like Mark Serwotka who this week rightly announced that the British trade union movement should, in the context of Labour’s disastrous adoption of the Coalition’s cuts agenda, be considered as the de facto government opposition.
At long last a trade union leader in the UK accepts also that the best route to resistance and survival is through alliances with those organisations who find common cause in the context of austerity:

We understand the need to combine different forms of opposition. We have campaigned for tax justice for quite a few years but it was when UK Uncut sat on the floor in Topshop and shouted pay your tax that it became a front page story. You have got to have the alternative, you have got to stand up for people at work and union members, but you also need to embrace more direct methods of getting your case across. And I think that's the way that we see things going forward.
Read the full interview with Serwotka here:

The connection here with the original issue of equality impact assessment and the need for trade unions to reach out to allied organisations is sharply underlined by the on-going media campaign by the Afiya Trust on the impact of cuts on black communities and the services historically established to serve their needs.

The Living in the Margins analysis provides conclusive evidence ( that public sector organisations do not take their impact assessment duty seriously and also that black communities are suffering a disproportionate impact of the cuts agenda. There is a great piece in today’s Guardian which does justice to the Trust’s on-going campaign and I recommend that you read it:

Suffice to say that what we have here and now in the UK is the perfect storm which should precipitate a more significant degree of collaboration between the trade union movement and that network of service users, providers, charities, protest group etc etc which could and should form the broad based alliance which is probably the best chance we have to forcefully challenge what the Coalition is doing.

Can it happen? We have no choice.

Yours in solidarity


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