The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

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2003 National Delegate Conference
29 May 2003

Conference welcomes the provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 which places a positive duty on all public authorities to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and good race relations in all their functions. Furthermore, Conference welcomes the commitment to developing codes of practice for relevant public bodies and put in place race action plans.

Conference notes that this can provide a systematic framework to tackle inequality and institutional racism in public services but that stand alone frameworks achieve little.

However, Conference believes that certain aspects of the Act fall short of our aspirations by excluding the private sector from its provisions and is concerned that more than one year after the introduction, racism is even more rampant and pernicious. Government and the public sector, which is bound by this law actively to promote equality in all its policies and functions, has significantly failed to do so.

In addition, the position of private companies delivering public services as a result of Best Value, PFI and PPP is not clear.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to work with the national self-organised group committees and through the TUC to campaign:

1)for Government to provide adequate funds to enable public sector employers to fulfil their obligations under the Act and establish a minimum standards framework in order to provide a consistent approach to the way that the Act is applied;

2)for the extension of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to cover the private and voluntary sectors, failure to do so creates a two-tier system of rights and duties where public sector workers have better rights than those in the private sector;

3)for equivalent provisions, including a duty to promote equality, to be extended to all forms of discrimination including institutionalised homophobia, heterosexism, ageism and disablism;

4)to encourage changes in the law so that individuals can use the Act in cases where organisations are not fulfilling their duties under the Act;

Conference asserts that trade unions play a key part in ensuring that legislation is more than a set of good intentions but actually deliver equality. In view of this, Conference expresses concern over the low level of response of branches to the implementation of the Stephen Lawrence Report Recommendations, despite previous motions being carried at this Conference.

Conference believes that UNISON branches have a key role to play in negotiating and developing the race equality schemes that are required by the Act and welcomes the various regional initiatives that have taken place. Conference also welcomes the UNISON Guide to Branches on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and emphasises the need to ensure that training takes place to enable UNISON to be at the forefront of pushing for race equality.

It is essential for UNISON to press public sector employers to implement the terms of the legislation and therefore Conference urges that a detailed account of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, an account of the events leading to the introduction of the legislation and a draft race action plan be circulated and detailed guidance provided to branches in relation to placing this issue on the negotiating agenda with employers.

Conference agrees to:

a)highlight the role of all levels of the union in negotiating for and promoting equality within the workplace, UNISON and externally;

b)co-ordinate across the union, and in particular with Northern Ireland which has a more extensive statutory duty, on best models for affecting change;

c)disseminate examples of good practice and guidance on negotiating and promoting equality in the workplace, union and externally;

d)work with training providers within UNISON to publicise to all its members the provision of the Act and develop training material and programmes for all its members

e)continue to challenge institutional and individual discrimination with employers and within the union.

Conference believes that the Act provides UNISON with an opportunity to improve the recruitment and organisation of black members and all branches need to organise to play a full role in ensuring not only that employers fulfil their duties/obligations but also that they are prepared and able to make full use of the Act.

Conference calls on Branches to:

i)Consult their black members’ groups on an agenda for improving race equality in their workplaces or call meetings of black members to discuss the implications of the Act if a branch groups does not exist;

ii)Discuss the implications of the legislation with the wider membership, as the RRA is not just a black members’ issue;

iii)Ensure that they have a copy of their public authority’s race equality scheme and challenge their authority if they have not produced one;

iv)Ensure that proper consultation and union involvement takes place on any programme of action arising out of their authority’s race equality scheme.