UNISON’s Anti-Racist Strategy

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2004 National Delegate Conference
2 March 2004
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the National Executive Council as part of its overall objectives for 2004/5 has identified a number of priorities that inform UNISON’s race equality work. These are:

1)developing and implementing an anti-racist strategy across the union;

2)tackling racism in the workplace;

3)the effective implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act;

4)promoting respect for asylum seekers and fighting for humane immigration rules;

5)combating the far right and promoting community cohesion.

Consequently, Conference welcomes the new anti-racist strategy which has been adopted by the National Executive Council. The strategy is a framework that UNISON will use to carry out its race equality work in future and covers tackling racism in the workforce, policy and campaigning development, recruitment, organisation and participation, employment and staff development and service delivery and membership care, including legal services.

Conference believes that the strategy will help to place race equality at the heart of the union, increase satisfaction with the delivery of services across all racial groups, ensure that race equality is properly reflected in the unions bargaining and campaigning priorities, and ensure that those involved in the union’s structures are representative of the whole membership.

Conference also believes that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is a key piece of legislation that UNISON can use to tackle race discrimination in the workplace. However, Conference recognises that in order to have credibility with our black members and with employers UNISON needs to comply with the provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act and ensure that branches respond adequately to the bargaining opportunities this presents.

Consequently, Conference welcomes work such as that underway in the Greater London Region, through the regional diversity forum and the Stephen Lawrence working party, to ensure that UNISON seizes the opportunities created by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act.

Conference further welcomes the recent decisions of the independent investigation into racism in Lambeth council and of the Employment Tribunal in the case of sacked UNISON shop steward, Alex Owolade, who was unfairly dismissed by Lambeth council, having played an active role in confronting racism in the workplace.

Conference recognises that the fight against far right organisations, particularly the British National Party (BNP), and the need to change people hearts and minds about asylum seekers and refugees are long term campaigning issues that we need to address with our members. The plight of overseas workers is also likely to play a significant role in our organising and campaigning strategies. Conference believes that these issues can only be tackled if race is seen as a collective trade union issue rather than in terms of individual problems suffered by members.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)ensure that the race equality strategy is implemented at all levels of UNISON;

b)publicise the strategy and the work being carried out in the different areas that it covers;

c)devise a three yearly audit process that measures progress that UNISON has made in improving race equality;

d)ensure that the National Black Members’ Committee and other relevant parts of UNISON are consulted on action plans and their implementation, taking account of relevant decisions of National Black Members Conference 2004 to:

i)call upon branches to make it clear to employers that disciplinary action against workers for speaking the truth about racism violates the Race Relations Act, and will be vigorously opposed by UNISON;

ii)assist/support relevant branches to organise public campaigns if management refuses to take action against racism or attempts to victimise workers raising these issues;

iii)demand that employers display a public statement in all workplaces, that they will act in accordance with the Race Relations Act and will not victimise or discriminate against any worker who raises objections about racist or discriminatory practices or attempts to correct them;

iv)support regional black members’ committees to organise training and provide advice to stewards on using the rights and protections guaranteed by the Race Relations Act and related measures in conjunction with the relevant regional education officers and the regional education committees.

e)provide training as part of regional education programmes on responding to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act;

f)ensure that lay and full-time representatives are trained, equipped and encouraged to confront racism in practice and to assist members experiencing racism;

g)continue to support UNISON activists victimised for speaking out against racism, and to campaign for the automatic reinstatement of union representatives, such as Alex Owolade in Lambeth, who are found to have been unfairly dismissed in such circumstances;

h)develop a campaign around migrant workers’ rights;

i)step up its campaign, especially political lobbying, in support of asylum seekers and refugees;

j)continue our proactive anti-BNP work within local communities with Unite Against Fascism and local coalitions.