UK has reached a defining moment in the battle against racism

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date: 30 November 2009

embargo: For immediate release

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O' Grady told a TUC conference today (Monday) that ten years after the publication of the Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, the UK has reached a defining moment in the battle against racism.

The TUC conference Stephen Lawrence Ten Years After alsofeatures speeches from Doreen Lawrence OBE and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham. The TUC has published a new guide for union negotiators Tackling Racism in the Workplace to coincide with the conference.

Frances O' Grady said: 'It's now ten years since the publication of the landmark Macpherson Report which, in the aftermath of the death of Stephen Lawrence, laid bare the extent of institutional racism within British life.

'Progress has been made in our struggle for race equality and although huge challenges remain, I believe we have now reached a defining moment in our battle against racism.

'America may have inaugurated its first black President - a signal of hope in a country scarred for so long by slavery and segregation - but here in the UK we seem to be moving backwards not forwards.

'The public debate about immigration remains dominated by shameless myths peddled about migrant workers, asylum seekers and ethnic minorities generally.

'Sometimes our politicians seem all too willing to tap into this populist sentiment, and frankly talk about 'British jobs for British workers' hasn't helped.

'The biggest cause for alarm has been the rise of the Far Right - a problem that has been brought into even sharper relief by the recession.

'Black workers are among those worst affected by the economic crisis - underlining the need to stamp out discriminatory practices around both recruitment and redundancy - and things could get worse before they get better.

'If public spending is slashed along the lines promised by the Tories, the problems will become even more acute and ethnic minority communities will be among the worst hit.

'It's important to recognise that some progress has been made over the past ten years.

'The Government deserves real credit for the commitment it has shown to advancing race equality - the Race Relations Amendment Act which resulted from the Macpherson Inquiry, the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force, the National Employment Panel's Business Commission and the public sector duty to promote race equality.

'However, the TUC believes that the duty should also be extended to the private sector. For us, the principle of equality is indivisible - it simply cannot apply to some groups of workers and not to others.

'So while we have made some important strides forward there's still an awful long way to go before Britain becomes a genuinely colour-blind country.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The full text of Frances O' Grady's speech is available from the TUC press office.

- Stephen Lawrence Ten Years After takes place between 10am and 5pm on Monday 30 November in TUC Congress House, central London. The conference includes contributions from Doreen Lawrence OBE; John Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Gloria Mill CBE, Chair of the TUC Race Relations Committee; Dr. Rob Berkeley, Director of the Runnymede Trust; Alan Christie, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission; Pragna Patel, Chair of Southall Black Sisters; Liz Fekete, Executive Director at the Institute of Race Relations and Kamaljeet Jandu, Head of the Equality at the GMB.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk

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