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TUC Anti-Racism Task Force evaluation

Gill Kirton, Professor of Employment Relations, Queen Mary University of London.
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Executive summary
  • The ARTF was a time-limited (2-year) Task Force which ended with a presentation of its work and findings at TUC Congress, October 2022. The TUC commissioned this evaluation to consider the effectiveness of ARTF in renewing the trade union movement’s commitment to campaigning against racism at work and to assess whether it represents an appropriate framework to steer the TUC and its affiliates towards building sustained and consistent work on race equality. 
  • The evaluation report makes recommendations in four key areas developed from the insights and perspectives of the different groups of participants:
  • - TUC leadership and co-ordination of the union movement’s anti-racist work
    - Union accountability for anti-racism Action Plans
    - Black member/activist engagement and involvement
    - Developing and spreading good practice for race equality
  • Drawing from the experience of the earlier TUC Stephen Lawrence Task Group, the starting premise for the ARTF was to be more action focused and attentive to core areas of union activity including collective bargaining and organising. Equally, the Task Force clearly signalled to unions that it was time ‘to get their own houses in order’ as regards internal black under-representation.
  • The structure and composition of the Task Force modelled an inclusive approach to anti-racism work whereby the work is not left to Black trade unionists and Black structures/networks but framed as a project that all trade unionists should be concerned with and from which all workers and union members benefit.
  • The Task Force had the hallmarks of a good governance structures: a clear and agreed vision; a strategy for delivering on the aims; appropriate leadership; accountability mechanisms; a strategy for continuing and building the programme of work.
  • This historical moment with its constellation of high-profile external events spotlighting racism, compelled the union movement “to step up to the plate”, but the stakes are high with Black union activists/members as well as some union officers describing this moment as the union movement’s ‘last chance’ to act on racism in the labour market.
  • Black officers, equality officers and activists were critical about the extent to which the Task Force was rooted among Black workers and activists including whether there were sufficient links to, consultation with and input from Black activists as regards the agenda.
  • The resources produced under the auspices of ARTF deliver on the promise to create the foundations for renewing the union movement’s work on anti-racism and race equality, but those resources will not in themselves be enough to ensure sustained and consistent work across unions.
  • The Task Force has created the conditions for an extra impetus and in some cases extra resources, for work that some unions had already started on anti-racism or had been doing for many years.
  • There was a lot of positivity around ARTF from Black member structures, but also some impatience in the context of the perception that action had been limited and progress on race equality extremely slow over many years; there was a hunger for action.
  • The Black Talent leadership programme stands out as a much needed and well received outcome of ARTF but with some concerns about rolling it out nationwide and following it up with ongoing support for the development of Black activists.
  • Starting the challenging conversation about the experiences of Black workers as employees inside trade unions was also widely seen as a significant step forward.
  • ARTF has promoted the concept of ‘strategic litigation’, a strategic approach to legal race cases, which has great potential to gain traction within the collective bargaining arena as it would represent a significant shift from the current individualised approach which unintentionally helps employers to stay out of the spotlight and avoid reputational damage for structural workplace racism.
  • ARTF has renewed the focus on anti-racism within the union movement in a co-ordinated effort and defined a shared vision of what the union movement should be seeking to achieve as regards representing Black workers.
  • ARTF raises the stakes in terms of what is demanded of unions and their anti-racism work so that Black members and activists do not write it off as a ‘talking shop’.
  • The ARTF Manifesto sets out a common purpose for the union movement which the TUC needs to ensure is enacted.
  • Recommendations focus on: TUC leadership and co-ordination of the union movement’s anti-racism work;
  1. union accountability for anti-racism action plans;
  2. Black member/activist engagement and involvement;
  3. developing and spreading good practice towards race equality.

Download full report (PDF)

1. Introduction


The TUC General Council launched the two-year Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) in September 2020 with the aim of renewing the trade union movement’s commitment to economic and social justice for Black workers, members and union staff.

The ARTF was set up amidst the growing number of deaths of Black and Ethnic Minority people due to Covid-19 1 , the death of George Floyd at the hands of American police2  and the global Black Lives Matter demonstrations, events which brought racism to the forefront of public consciousness and debate.

The ARTF set out to refresh the TUC’s campaigning, organising and bargaining work and to guide how the union movement should be tackling race inequalities in workplaces and communities. Ultimately the ARTF sought to define the framework for the union movement’s current and future long-term work on race with the aim of putting economic and social justice for Black workers at the centre of the movement’s work.

Evaluation objectives

The ARTF was a time-limited Task Force which ended with a presentation of its work and findings at TUC Congress 2022. Now that the ARTF's two-year lifespan has come to an end, the TUC deemed it important for this programme of work to be independently evaluated in two main areas:

  1. Its delivery of renewing the trade union movement’s commitment to campaigning against racism at work. The agenda it has set for trade unions for taking on this work within their own structures.
  2. Assessing the ARTF as an appropriate framework to steer the TUC and its affiliates towards building sustained and consistent work on race equality.

The TUC wants to learn from this process so that it can form a basis for future planning. In 2023 the ARTF entered its second phase of work, which is a five-year plan to keep race at the top of the movement’s agenda. Therefore, the evaluation brief was to provide critical perspectives and reflections deriving from the range of ARTF participants. The evaluation considers the following:

  • Relevance – extent to which the ARTF objectives were/are consistent with requirements of unions from the perspective of senior leaders, officers, activists, and members
  • Effectiveness – extent to which objectives were achieved
  • Impact – positive short and longer-term effects
  • Sustainability – prospects for continuation of anti-racism work in the union movement

Evaluation methodology

  • Review of all the minutes and documentation that have resulted from the ARTF
  • 12 semi-structured interviews with a selection of: TUC ARTF staff, the ARTF main membership and the co-opted members of the ARTF workstreams
  • 3 focus groups made up of other union staff (including equality officers) and union members/activists who participated in one or more activities of the ARTF

Structure of the evaluation

The remainder of the report is structured as follows:

  • Consideration of the Anti-racism Task Force (ARTF) framework
  • Relevance of ARTF
  • Effectiveness and impact of ARTF
  • Sustainability of ARTF
  • Recommendations
  • Appendices

The first section draws on the review of ARTF meeting minutes and other documentation together with TUC senior leadership and union officer interviews. The next three sections draw largely on the interviews and focus groups and therefore offer a range of perspectives from those of ARTF Main Task Force Committee general secretaries, to TUC and union officers (including equality officers), to activists and members. The intention here is to represent the range of participant views from their different perspectives and from the standpoint of their different roles. Discussions were conducted in confidence with the assurance of anonymity of individuals, therefore, the categories used in the report are loose and individuals are placed where they best fit: general secretaries (including of TUC); union officers (including equality officers, tutors, union full-time officials, TUC officers); activists.

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