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Open letter to the Prime Minister to reject ‘insulting’ report and act on race equality at work

Response to the Sewell Report

The TUC coordinated a letter from trade unions to the prime minister, calling on him to reject the controversial report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred). The letter was co-signed by 33 general secretaries representing over 5.2 million members. 
This story was carried in the Observer, and reinforced by a blog from Dr Patrick Roach, who wrote that institutional racism is real, as the evidence shows.

 

The full text of the open letter from 36 trade union general secretaries to the Prime Minister is below.

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

We are writing to express our concern and disappointment at last week’s report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which we feel understated both the challenge and the scale of change required.   

Black and Minority Ethnic workers experience systemic inequalities across the labour market, which we consider the result of structural and institutional discrimination.   

BME workers are overrepresented in lower paid, insecure jobs and have to send 60 per cent more job applications to be invited to interview. Currently, the BME unemployment rate is running at almost double that of white workers. And BME workers in London, the region with the highest BME population, experience a 24 per cent pay gap.   

These inequalities are compounded by the direct discrimination BME people face within workplaces: around a quarter (24 per cent) had been singled out for redundancy and one in seven (15 per cent) of those that had experienced racist harassment at work said they left their job as a result.  

During the pandemic, BME workers are far more likely to be in frontline roles such as education staff, health workers and delivery drivers. This has meant that BME workers have been far more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 infection and were three times more likely to die.   

Institutional and structural racism exists in the UK, in both the labour market and wider society. We do not believe that the Commission recognised its extent and impact. And we do not consider that the report’s recommendations would make a meaningful positive difference to the working lives and careers of BME workers.   

The government previously commissioned Ruby Macgregor-Smith to provide recommendations to increase workplace equality – yet the Commission did not repeat even these recommendations, let alone go further to propose actions to tackle the profound disadvantage BME workers face in the UK labour market in 2021.    

We hoped that the report would recommend action to stamp out insecure work and make employers act to close their ethnicity pay gaps. Instead, the Commission has chosen to deny the experiences of BME workers and be complacent about the UK’s progress towards being an anti-racist society.  

The UK’s trade union movement repudiates this report.   

Ministers should instead implement in full the recommendations of previous reports, including McGregor-Smith (employment), Lammy (criminal justice), Williams (Windrush), Angiolini (deaths in custody), Parker (FTSE100 boards), and Marmot (health inequalities).    

Trade unions will continue to fight for decent wages, fair treatment and an end to exploitation for all working people – knowing this will disproportionately benefit BME workers. We will stand firm in identifying and opposing direct and indirect racism at work. There is no conflict between defending working class interests and pushing for equality for BME workers. Today’s working class is multiethnic and multifaith. We stand for all working people.   

We hope ministers will reflect on the inadequacies of the report of the Commission for Racial Disparities, recognise the insult it has offered to BME workers, and pick a different path.   

Yours sincerely  

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary 

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary, NASUWT and Chair of the TUC Anti Racism Taskforce 

Gloria Mills, Chair, TUC Race Relations Committee 

Gail Cartmail, President, Trades Union Congress 

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite 

Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON 

Warren Kenny, Acting General Secretary, GMB 

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, NEU 

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU 

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, Usdaw 

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU 

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS 

Mike Clancy, General Secretary, Prospect 

Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary, University and College Union 

Karen Middleton, Chief Executive, CSP 

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union 

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists 

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community 

Steve Gillan, General Secretary, POA 

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT 

Tim Rose, General Secretary, Nationwide Group Staff Union 

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, Transport Salaries Staffs’ Association 

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, NAPO 

Steve Jamieson, General Secretary, The College of Podiatry 

Zita Holbourne, Joint National Chair, Artists' Union England 

Claudia Paoloni, President, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association 

Andy Burman, CEO, British Dietetic Association 

Mark Dickinson, General Secretary, Nautilus International 

Kate Fallon, General Secretary, Association of Educational Psychologists  

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM 

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union 

Brian Linn, General Secretary, Aegis the Union 

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, BFAWU 

Mick Cash, General Secretary, RMT

Paul Fleming, General Secretary, Equity

Gordon Taylor OBE, CEO, PFA 

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