Tackling inequality and discrimination is an essential part of our trade unionism

Published date
13 Sep 2017
I’m delighted that, at long last, our Colombian friend Huber Ballesteros could join us this morning and address our Congress.

Huber was due to speak to the TUC four years ago but was arrested as he tried to travel to the UK. His resilience is inspiring, as his continuing commitment to the trade union movement and to peace in Colombia.

And I’m proud of how many British trade unionists campaigned for his release.

Fighting injustice, inequality, violence and discrimination, at home and abroad, is an essential part of our work.

That’s why our discussions at Congress this morning focused on equality, and the particular experiences of women workers, LGBT+ workers, disabled workers and Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers.

And it’s why we’ve published a new report today, analysing the nature of racism at work.

We polled more than 1,000 British BME people and found that 37% have been bullied, abused or singled out at work. And of those who reported bullying, only one in five felt that their complaint was dealt with properly.

BME women suffer the double whammy of racism and sexism. Shockingly, 41% of them – that’s two in five – said they wanted to leave their jobs because of bullying and harassment, but couldn’t afford to.

I hope that employers take note of these findings. It’s a scandal that so few black and Asian workers feel their bosses are dealing properly with racism.

And it's unacceptable that shop workers, bus drivers and street cleaners face racist abuse from members of the public. The government should change the law so their employers have to protect them.

Issues like these – making sure everyone gets a fair deal and respect at work – are our bread and butter as trade unionists.

The year ahead

As our outgoing president Mary said on Sunday, Congress is our shop window. So what have we shown the world in the last few days?

We’ve acted together to recognise the immense challenges we face, both as a movement and as a country. And we’ve taken pro-active steps to meet those challenges.

From fighting for a jobs-first, rights-first Brexit, to finding new ways to support young workers – unions aren’t shying away from tough choices and difficult realities.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved at this Congress, and I look forward to keeping up the fight in our 150th year, and changing the world of work for good.