Haroon Majid of Prospect’s Defence Equipment and Support branch gives his impressions as an observer at the TUC black workers’ conference in London on April 7-9.
I attended my first ever TUC black workers’ conference in April as an observer on Prospect’s delegation. I was with other representatives, including Satnam Ner, the first black vice-president of the Scottish TUC.
It was a good opportunity to network with others and gain an insight into what was happening across the union movement and in different workplaces.
The challenges include the rise in hate crime after last year’s Brexit vote, which compounded the current austerity measures imposed by the government since 2010; and job security for workers within various sectors, for example, casual teaching and health care assistants on zero-hours contracts.
Speakers from different unions proposed a range of motions that were then supported by others. Various high-profile guest speakers spoke about current issues affecting black, Asian and other minority ethnic workers, such as mental health and race and policing.
Satnam Ner seconded a motion from train union ASLEF on awareness of prostate cancer, which black men are more likely to get (one in four compared to one in eight men in general)
Many speakers highlighted the glass ceiling facing BAME workers trying to gain promotion within their respective organisations.
With the future uncertain, delegates felt that progress over the previous decade on workers’ rights could be eroded after leaving the EU.
First time Prospect delegate Michael Owuye, from National Grid, spoke in support of a motion from sister union FDA on the decreasing number of BAME people in senior leadership positions. The motion called on the TUC to monitor and expose inconsistent recruitment practices, including the lack of diverse selection panels.
Satnam Ner proposed Prospect’s motion, about under-representation on BAME groups generally and praised the TUC initiative ‘Let’s talk about racism at work’. The motion called on the TUC to campaign for diversity task forces could to scrutinise and hold decision-makers to account.
A motion calling for “a better deal for black workers in the labour market” will be the conference motion chosen go forward to the national TUC conference this September.
All 20 motions debated were carried and will be incorporated into the annual work plan of the TUC’s race relations committee.
Fringe meetings and social events provided yet more opportunities to highlight the issues facing BAME workers.
We also met and networked with our colleagues from Prospect’s BECTU sector and were able to support them during conference.
Attending the conference gave me a better understanding of the current issues affecting BAME people in the workplace and across society.