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Trade unions have a crucial role in the struggle for race equality

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The TUC’s new anti-racist taskforce will build on the work of the past two decades to map out the actions needed today to tackle unequal outcomes and keep race on the agenda.

This week Sadiq Khan declared London's City Hall an 'anti-racist organisation', a move which has put the concept of anti-racism centre stage once more.

And across the public and private sectors, there’s been a wave of renewed consciousness about racial disparities in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, which followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. 

These moves echo the response from authorities to the Stephen Lawrence public inquiry 20 years ago, which first propelled the concept of institutional racism into the national debate.  

In the past two decades, trade unions have launched a range of initiatives to boost anti-racism in the workplace - and have successfully influenced public policy in this area.  

But much more can be done. 

Today marks the inaugural meeting of a TUC anti-racist taskforce.  

This is made up of trade union leaders from the General Council, plus race equality experts and members of the TUC Race Relations Committee.  

The TUC exists to improve working life and improve equality for everyone. As such, the new taskforce will set about harnessing the collective power of trade unions, and the 5.5 million members, towards combating racism in the workplace and across the labour movement. 

A key measure of success is the extent we can reduce racial disparities in work.  

Jobs and income determine a range of other negative outcomes in peoples’ lives - like poverty, overcrowded housing and bad health - so the workplace is clearly an important place to start.  

Eliminate racial disparities in employment and you go a long way to levelling the playing field for BME communities.  

But TUC research published today shows just how far away that goal appears.  

It found that BME workers are more likely to report being verbally and even physically abused at work.  

 They are more likely to have been unfairly overlooked for a payrise or promotion, or unfairly turned down for a job, and more likely to be kept on insecure contracts.  

If the experience of BME people at work is bad, consider the barriers to getting a job in the first place. Black young men are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts. 

 A government study by Baroness Ruby McGregor Smith calculated that Britain would be £24 billion a year better off if BME people fully participated in the labour market. 

The new taskforce will build on the work of unions in putting anti-racism into action

Trade union members have a record of strongly opposing racism. Within the labour movement we can go further in representing discrimination cases of members and unblocking the pipelines so that BME talent can progress through internal structures.

The movement can be more visible in clocking up wins against racism, and make the challenging of racial disparities at work as integral as defending and improving terms and conditions. 

There is strong commitment across the trade union movement to put unions at the forefront in the struggle for race equality. 

By working closely with Black members and taking an intersectional approach, unions can continue to make a real difference.   

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