Unions working against racism?

Unions working against racism?


Written by: Jenny Bourne

A new pamphlet, co-produced by the Working Lives Research Institute and the TUC, is directed at reinvigorating the anti-racist struggle in the workplace.

With Black workers set to make up an increasingly large proportion of the low-paid labour market, the pamphlet argues that Black trade unionists need to hold leading positions, that Black self-organisation needs to be reasserted and that race equality and anti-discrimination need to be at the heart of collective bargaining.

Entitled Working Against Racism: the role of trade unions in Britain, this well-produced and illustrated pamphlet starts with sections defining terms and examining the historical legal framework and union record. But the half of the pamphlet on the steps that unions can take now is by far the most important and challenging. It is somewhat depressing, though, that some thirty years after the path-breaking Grunwick dispute, unions still have to be reminded of the basic maxim: they must not pretend that racism does not exist. Second, unions are told to ensure that race equality is at the heart of all collective bargaining and that all Black workers should be consulted on this. It is also suggested that Black activists should be on leading union committees and that Black workers should be encouraged to be active in the union. Indeed, Black workers should be full-time union officers and lay leaders and this means, the unions are told, looking outside the normal appointment pools. Despite Black workers, especially Black women, having the highest rate of trade union membership, Black workers in the casual and service sectors should be recruited as a priority. And links need to be built between unions and Black communities – which means supporting community campaigns. Ethnic monitoring, anti-racist training and actively joining the campaign against racism are all part of the role of trade unions in Britain.

Related links

Details about Working Against Racism pamphlet

Download an order form (pdf file, 46kb)

Working Lives Institute

Trades Union Congress

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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