Tackling Race Inequalities - A TUC Response

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Tackling Race Inequalities



1 General

1.1 The response of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to the consultation represents the collective view our 63 affiliated unions, who between them represent over 6 million members. These trade union members work in all sectors of the economy and live in all parts of England and Wales. This provides a particularly comprehensive view of what might be done to move towards more cohesive communities as well as a race equality strategy.


2.1 The TUC welcomes this consultation. While the United Kingdom is a culturally and ethnically diverse country, discrimination on the basis of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin is still a daily experience for many people. The Government has a key role to play in developing the strategies to tackle this discrimination. No one agency can bring about racial equality. Other stakeholders such as trade unions, employers and community groups also have an important part to play.

2.2 The TUC believes that trade unions are key agents in promoting equality of opportunity in the workplace because of the principles of collectivism and equality that are at the heart of the trade union movement.

2.3 The TUC welcomes the fact that the Government is looking to further develop its strategic approach towards race equality and is consulting on these issues.

2.4 We have supported the Government's proposals to develop a race equality strategy and believe that there is a need for an ambitious and robust race equality strategy that commands leadership and ownership across all Government departments.

2.5 Whilst believing that the Governments original strategy 'Improving Opportunity and Strengthening Society'[i] was a step forward we pointed out that that race equality and community cohesion are essentially different issues and require different approaches and strategies.

2.6 Whilst a Race Equality Strategy provides a foundation on which to build a Community Cohesion Strategy, we believe that to merge the two issues may give rise to confusion and questions about location, ownership and responsibility.

2.7 The concept of community cohesion goes beyond the concept of race equality. Community Cohesion is a wider citizenship issue, and needs to be developed from a wider base and perspective. We believe that a strong and effective race equality strategy is a key requirement and should underpin the government's work for a community cohesion strategy. However, they should not be treated as interchangeable but separate issues.

2.8 We believe that the merging of Cohesion and Race Equality Strategy has been misguided and has led to a policy focus on community cohesion and the integration of black and minority ethnic communities and appeared to downplay the need to tackle the systemic racism that afflicts people in their everyday lives. This has lead to the perception among many people in black and minority ethnic communities that dealing with race discrimination is off the Government agenda.

2.9 The TUC believes that the publication of Sir William Macpherson's report into the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1999[ii] was a watershed in race equality policy in that it identified the need for organisations in the public and private sphere to tackle institutional racism.

2.10 The TUC believes that the institutional barriers highlighted by Sir William Macpherson in the Stephen Lawrence report need to be properly addressed in the private as well as the public sector. There is a need to recognise that in order to improve race equality there must be greater measuring, reporting, incentives and enforcement.

2.11 We believe that a future Government strategy on race equality should be more than general or aspirational in nature and that tackling institutional racism should be a central focus of future Government race equality strategies. We believe that there is a need for a substantial programme of work in this area to begin to remove the structural, social and economic barriers that have perpetuated a cycle of disadvantage, deprivation and discrimination in communities. Removing these barriers should be a key priority of the Government's strategy.

3. Employment

3.1 The TUC believes that access to and progress within employment is central to the participation of black and minority communities in society. Without employment people from black and minority ethnic communities suffer from social exclusion, poverty and an insurmountable barrier to social mobility. Employment is also an area where people from different backgrounds work together in an environment where they can potentially mix and overcome negative perceptions about other workers from different communities.

3.2 The TUC is concerned that community divisions arise in the labour market through the exclusion of black workers from work, through the barriers faced by of black workers in gaining promotion and through the limited access to black workers of jobs in parts of the economy. The TUC believes that in order to tackle racial inequalities in the labour market there is a need for a range of policy measures, including positive action, to tackle occupational segregation and measures to support strong trade union organisation in order to advance the position of black workers in the labour force.

3.3 The TUC supports the efforts that the Government is making to close the employment gap between black and white workers through the work of the Ethnic Minority Employment Taskforce. However we believe that the EMETF has suffered from a lack of stability because of Ministerial changes. Since being established six different Ministers have chaired the Task Force and there have been problems with the level of commitment from other Government Ministers and departments. As a consequence it has not achieved a great deal during the six years it has been meeting.

3.4 The TUC has always emphasized the link between exclusion from the labour market and poverty. The TUC report 'Black Workers, Jobs and Poverty'[iii] highlighted the systemic nature of exclusion from jobs experienced by black communities and demonstrated that the poverty caused by this was generational. The report called on the Government to focus its resources and employment programmes on areas of long-term unemployment, as many of these areas are where the majority of black communities are based.

3.5 The TUC believes that measures need to be taken to increase the employment of black and minority ethnic workers in the private sector, which represents the largest part of the labour market, to deal with discrimination in the workplace and we welcomed the tasking by the Government of the National Employment Panel Business Commission (NEP) on Race Equality in the Workplace to look at how the ethnic minority employment gap could be closed in the private sector.

3.6 We believe that the recommendations made in the NEP report 60/76[iv] could, if fully implemented by Government, make an important contribution towards dealing with institutional discrimination in employment in the private sector.

3.7 Government policy on race relations and employment has mainly been aimed at creating good practice in the public sector on the premise that this will filter through to the private sector. Over the last three years the TUC has argued that the that this is a false premise and that if race equality in employment is to be achieved then discriminatory practice in the private sector, which makes up two thirds of the labour market, must be tackled directly. The TUC has also argued that there is a need for a more effective strategy on private sector engagement and that more attention needs to be paid to tackling race discrimination within the workplace.

3.8 An important recommendation in the NEP report is that the Equality and Human Rights Commission conducts two sector-based reviews each year to result in an agreed action plan for improving performance in ethnic minority recruitment, retention and promotion. The TUC believes that this recommendation recognises that there are problems of job segregation and segmentation in different parts of the labour market and that there is a need to develop different strategies to break down the barriers facing black workers.

3.9 The TUC has consistently argued that public procurement should be used as a lever to improve race equality practice in the public sector. We believe that without positive measures which reward those employers that develop good anti-discriminatory practices and penalise those that do not, the employment gap will remain and efforts to integrate communities into wider society will inevitably fail.

3.10 The TUC does not believe that a philosophy of voluntarism is adequate to address the race discrimination that exists in the private sector nor do we believe that any examples set in the public sector will simply spread to the private sector. Our experience is that the majority of employers, whether in the public sector or private sector, only adopt good practice when they believe that there are no other options. This is why the government has had to introduce the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The TUC has argued that if the government is serious in its stated policy of eradicating racial inequalities in the labour market by 2013, all employers should be placed under a duty to promote racial equality and to monitor the impact of such measures.

3.11 The TUC believes that a Government race equality strategy should specifically address the position of black women in the labour market. A TUC report on Black Women and Employment[v] found that black women were more likely to suffer from cultural stereotyping by employers, resulting in them having to take jobs at a lower skills level than they were qualified for.

  • 3.12 We welcome the substantial contribution made by the Women and Work Commission in highlighting the areas where Government needs to improve opportunities for women in training, work and workplace practice. However, we believe that effective and transparent monitoring of black women by employers will help improve their position in the labour market and the introduction of national monitoring of the Government's Childcare Strategy as it relates to black communities is essential to ensure that there is a positive impact for black women and increased investment in childcare provision to ensure black women have access to affordable childcare.

3.13 The TUC believes that trade unions are an important social partner in tackling discrimination in relation to access to work and in the workplace. The work of trade unions such as BECTU with the 'Move On Up' project, that has brought executives from TV, Radio, Film and theatre in direct contact with skilled black workers who have been unable to secure jobs in those areas, demonstrates the innovative role that trade unions can play in tackling occupational segregation. We believe that trade unions should be given Government support in developing such projects through a union diversity fund.

4.Education and training

4.1 The Government has rightly placed an emphasis on improving the level of skills in black and minority ethnic communities to improve the employment chances of workers from those communities. The TUC in its report 'Workplace Training a race for opportunity'[vi] highlighted the lack of training offered to black and minority employees in the workforce and showed how this was a barrier to their progression in the workplace.

4.2 The TUC welcomes the Government's decision to widen access to apprenticeships as one of the measures that it has introduced to counter the effects of the recession. Government has already acknowledged the equality issues that exist with the current apprenticeship schemes.

4.3 The TUC believes there are shortfalls in the current approach and that the Government should include a comprehensive plan within its race equality strategy to ensure that black and minority ethnic people have equal access to apprenticeships. The plan should be underpinned by practical action to target particular groups, sectors and localities. The plan should adopt a holistic approach that addresses issues such as the career choices people make, through to ensuring that the organisation of work supports all apprentices. It should also review the situation of part-time and shift workers in relation to access to Apprenticeships.

4.4 The TUC believes Government should make proactive use of levers to promote equality and diversity in apprenticeships. In particular, using procurement policy to promote equality in apprenticeships provides a huge opportunity to build equality and diversity. Other mechanisms that could be put in place include targets for Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), which could be linked to Government funding of SSCs. Establishing targets for Regional Development Agencies could also be explored.

5. Low Income Households

5.1 The TUC in its report 2005 report Black Workers, Jobs and Poverty highlighted the link between poverty, the barriers that black communities continue to face in gaining access to the labour market and the need for concerted and co-ordinated action by all those attempting to eliminate racial discrimination in the labour market and in society, whether through legislative or community based initiatives.

5.2 We are also concerned about the high levels of in-work poverty suffered within black and minority ethnic communities and note that very little progress has been made in tackling poverty among working families. Government figures show that over half of poor children now live in a family where someone is employed.

5.3 The TUC believes that levels of in-work poverty are a reflection of the labour market segregation and segmentation that black and minority ethnic communities face as a result of racial discrimination in employment. This results in black workers being over-represented in low paid sectors of the economy, being over-represented among the temporary contract and agency workforce and facing barriers in relation to promotion and advancement in the workplace.

5.4 We believe that the initiatives that the Government has taken on building employability and connecting people to work have made an important contribution to starting to close the ethnic minority employment gap. However the Government has a major role to play in ensuring that there is proper enforcement and monitoring through regulatory bodies to deal with discrimination within the workplace otherwise entry into employment could become a revolving door through which workers gain access to employment but then end up out of employment because of racial discrimination in the workplace

5.5 Whilst some progress has been made in public services since the introduction of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2001 the TUC is concerned that there is evidence that many public authorities are not compliant with the legislation. Public Authorities must be given the resources to make the legislation work. In addition, the priorities that government sets for public services must be impact-assessed to ensure that black and minority ethnic communities are not disadvantaged

6. Migration and Immigration

6.1 The TUC welcomes the Government's recognition that there is a place for migrant workers in the employment market and its development of a programme on managed migration. However we believe that whilst the government recognises short term and transient migrant workers, it needs to acknowledge that there is a significant number of workers who are, in effect, immigrants rather than migrants and will settle in the UK.

6.2 Whilst recognizing the duty of Government to protect migrant workers from exploitation and ensure that their rights are enforced we believe that the current system of document checks and employer penalties has led to a disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic workers and businesses. The potential damage to equal opportunities and race relations is of considerable concern as evidence suggests that black and minority ethnic workers are the targets for document checks. The emphasis on document checks does not recognise the problems faced by migrant workers when agencies and employers hold onto documents and in some cases workers who believe that they have been employed on a legal basis find that employers or agencies have not secured the necessary documentation.

6.3 The TUC believes that the main aim of a managed migration system should be to ensure equal rights for people at work whether they are indigenous or migrant workers and we believe that any system should be built on a rights-based approach that separates the right of residence and the right to work from a specific employment contract.

6.4 We understand the need for an objective system such as a points system for determining whether people are allowed to enter Britain to work, in the interests both of the migrant workers and the host community and but believe that the objectives of a managed migration system should be focused exclusively on the economic benefit to the UK .

6.5 We are concerned that the current scheme does not adequately take into account the social and welfare needs of economic migrants, and the rights that those individuals should expect, given their contribution to the economy and has a disproportionately negative impact on those from black and minority ethnic communities.

6.5 The TUC believes that the phased introduction of ID cards for non UK nationals will have a disproportionate impact on black and ethnic minorities and non-EU nationals. The TUC is also concerned about the power given to employers in vetting job applicants' identity. In these circumstances, unscrupulous employers who purposefully employ undocumented workers would be in a position to threaten with deportation workers who do not have ID card. Other employers who wish to avoid the bureaucracy involved or avoid the risks of being fined because they might inadvertently employ somebody who is not entitled to work, may stop hiring black and minority ethnic workers and any other person whose right to remain may be in doubt or cannot be proved with an ID card acting as a residence permit.

6.6 We believe that the Government should recognise that many different migration schemes have led to a complex set of rules which workers find hard to understand and which can often lead to situations where workers become undocumented through no fault of their own. We do not find it acceptable that in these circumstances workers are criminalised.

6.7 The TUC believes that the Government should ratify the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families, regulate recruitment agencies at national and international level and ensure that an agency within Government has responsibility for enforcing the rights of these workers.

7. Criminal Justice

7.1 The TUC continues to be concerned about the disproportionate numbers of black and minority ethnic people who are subject to court proceedings and are imprisoned. We believe that the effect of this disproportionately high level of contact with the penal system is to blight the employment prospects of those who come into contact with the system.

7.2 We are especially concerned at the increasingly disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic people that are subject to stop and search. This is an area of concern for its impact on community cohesion. The perception of many within the black and Asian communities is that they are disproportionately targeted because of the colour of their skin or more recently because of religion, or stereotypes about people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The TUC shares this view and believes that the Government should fully implement the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report on Stop and Search to address this problem.

7.3 The TUC is also concerned that National Database continues this system of over-representation, especially since a recent European court case highlighted the disproportionality of innocent BME people whose DNA samples are unnecessarily kept on file. Those who are innocent of crime should not be on the National DNA database, and it is a stain on the criminal justice system in the UK that their DNA is not removed.

7.4 We are concerned that the over-representation of black and minority ethnic people on a range of state databases is an indication of an increased use by the state of racial profiling, a practice which is discredited by the use of racial and cultural stereotypes.

7.5 We believe that a Government race equality strategy should include measures to reduce the disproportionate over-representation of black and minority ethnic communities in the criminal justice system and their appearance in government data.

8. Tackling Extremism

8.1 The TUC believes that it is essential that political and institutional leadership is demonstrable if we hope to deal with problems of racial discrimination. We would make the point that racial discrimination and religious discrimination are different although related and do not believe that a 'one size fits all' approach is helpful in this respect.

8.2 The TUC is committed to the concept of a multiracial society where different communities and cultures live together on the basis of mutual respect. We believe that the rise of extremism is rooted in the failure of institutions to address the needs of section of our community who feel excluded from the mainstream of social activity. However we are concerned that the Government's focus on extremism is only in relation to the Muslim Community and believe Government should have a strategy for tackling extremism across society that tackling extremism.

8.3 Whilst accepting that the Government has security concerns and responsibilities arising from September 11th we believe that the focus on Islam in the consultation document as an example of extremism is unhelpful. It is our view that black and minority ethnic communities find racism, racial and religious harassment and hate crimes as unacceptable as everybody else, as they are overwhelmingly the victims of these views.

8.4 We believe that the focus of the Government on religious extremism, Community Cohesion, Integration and Citizenship, is in danger of obscuring the very real feelings of exclusion and frustration that result from economic exclusion and deprivation and race discrimination. We do not accept the notion that radical views automatically lead to extremism and are concerned about the implications of this in Universities, where lecturers are expected to report students on the basis of fairly vague notions of radicalization.

8.5 Issues of race and religion are too often used as a political issue; national and local politician should be playing a much more active part in countering the stereotypes and myths peddled in the media. All too often there have been politicians who have been complicit in perpetuating these stereotypical views.

8.6 The TUC and our affiliated unions have been active in various coalitions against racism to campaign vigorously against the far right in the run up to the imminent European Elections. This activity was built on the foundations laid as a result of the disturbances in the northern towns in 2001. We view the participation of far right extremist parties in the electoral process as a major threat to the stability of communities.

8.7 In areas where the far-right have stood for election there has been a rise in the level of racist attacks and hate crimes. We believe that the government needs to ensure that the laws and sentencing for hate crimes are prohibitive and that there is more support and protection given to victims of such crimes.

9. Conclusion

9.1 The TUC is concerned that the consultation document makes no mention of the important role that trade unions play in tackling race discrimination in the workplace. Our response to this consultation demonstrates the involvement and commitment of the trade union movement to working with Government as a major social partner in tackling problems of race discrimination in the labour market and wider society.

9.2 A year ago, the TUC published the report 'Ten Years After'[vii], marking the tenth anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence report by looking at the impact of ten years of Government policy on race equality. We found that, in employment, the Government had made some progress in closing the employment gaps, but we worried about the lack of employer engagement with the Government's efforts.

9.3 In a recent recession report[viii] the TUC identified that historically there are good reasons for worrying that the recession may hit black and minority ethnic workers harder than other groups: that is what has happened in previous recessions. The good news is that this does not appear to have happened so far but if public sector cuts accelerate, the reduction in the employment and unemployment gaps could end and we would see the BME employment picture return to the pattern of previous recessions.

9.4 We believe that cuts would be an economically illiterate response to the recession, making the threat of unemployment more severe and last longer. On top of this, black and minority ethnic workers, and all workers who care about racial equality, have an extra concern - such cuts could give an extra edge to the worst recession since the Second World War. We hope that the Government will do a proper race equality impact assessment before embarking on such a course.

9.5 The TUC trusts that the Government will set out a clear timetable for when and how it now intends to progress the matters covered in this consultation paper and consult on a new Race Equality Strategy. We believe such a strategy is important in that the government needs to properly honour the commitments it made by signing the 'Durban Declaration' at 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) and the subsequent declaration at the Durban Review Conference at Geneva in 2009.

9.6 Trade unions alongside other stakeholders such as community organisations, in particular black groups, will want to play an active role in shaping the future agenda and in developing the new race equality strategy.

[i] Improving Opportunities and Strengthening Society, Home Office, 2005

[ii].The Inquiry into the Death of Stephen Lawrence, Sir William Macpherson, 1999

[iii] Black Workers, Jobs and Poverty, TUC, May 2005

[iv] 60/76 Business Commission on Race Equality in the Workplace, NEP, October 2007

[v] Black Women and Employment, TUC, April 2006

[vi] Workplace Training a race for opportunity' TUC, April 2005

[vii] Ten Years After, TUC, April 2008

[viii] Black Workers and the Recession, TUC, April 2009

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