Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tackling racism at work

Yesterday’s UNISON Greater London Regional Policy Day had its moments. I participated in a workshop on the Union’s tackling racism project. This is a nationally coordinated project being piloted in a small number of union branches which aims to explore how to use the duties of public sector employers under the Race Relations Amendment Act to promote the interests of our members and challenge institutional racism at work, building upon the existing guide for UNISON branches.

Public authorities have wide ranging duties to publish monitoring information, from which trade unionists can draw evidence of institutional discrimination. Some employers go beyond the legal minimum and publish extensive data on their equality performance (Lambeth Council for example). Where employers are producing this information the challenge then is to work out what to do with it. There was some debate yesterday about whether we ought not already to be setting some targets and objectives in order to negotiate on them with the employers.

Where for example (as in the latest figures produced by Lambeth) it appears that white job applicants are more than three times as likely to be successful as their black counterparts, while internal promotions also seem to go disproportionately to white staff, unions and employers need to find ways to work together constructively to address this disadvantage. As the Southwark Branch Secretary pointed out to me yesterday, branches don’t need to wait for the national pilot project to get on with the job of tackling racism in the workplace.

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