Northern Complainant Aid Fund and the National Complainant Aid Campaign

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Conference
2005 National Black Members' Conference
Date
19 September 2004
Decision
Carried as Amended

Conference remains concerned about the drastic cuts in the Commission for Racial Equality’s (CRE) funding of free and accessible community-based frontline Complainant Aid services, which had been the primary resource for black workers seeking advice, support and representation for complaints of race discrimination.

Conference believes that despite an increase in anti-discrimination laws, black workers and black job applicants are being effectively denied access to justice through a combination of a lack of free legal representation and the threat of costs

Prior to August 2003 Northern Complainant Aid Fund (NCAF) was a frontline service provider. NCAF offered free direct assistance to complainants through the provision of information, advice, case preparation and representation at Employment Tribunal hearings and appeals to the Employment Appeals Tribunal in a variety of complex cases of race and sex discrimination, unfair/constructive dismissal and breach of contract/ wrongful dismissal cases. NCAF was also the primary support organisation for many trade unions including UNISON, assisting stewards across the range of discrimination casework and supporting unions to represent the interests of their members. Trade unions, including UNISON, were also provided with indirect assistance through the provision of training to trade union officials.

Such was the extent of the service provided by NCAF, the CRE in its 1993 annual report described NCAF as the ‘best practice model’ for complainant aid organisations.

Yet, since the removal of funds from NCAF and the dismantling of the complainant aid service the situation for workers facing discrimination in the workplace has worsened.

Further, on 20th March 2004 The Guardian reported that the Home Secretary’s special adviser on race, Matt Cavanagh, had published a book entitled ‘Against Equality of Opportunity’ in which he argued that the law should not stop white employers discriminating against black job applicants if the company’s white customers “prefer to do business with white staff”.

On 27th December 2003 Trevor Phillips reported in the Daily Telegraph that the CRE is abandoning its role in hundreds of discrimination cases to concentrate on fostering “racial integration”

And, the Employment Tribunals Service Annual Report for 2002-2003 recorded a sharp rise in the number of Employment Tribunal cases in which costs were awarded against complainants.

In response to this situation the ‘National Complainant Aid Campaign’ has been established by NCAF and activists from other independent complainant aid organisations, trade unions, black workers groups, trades councils and black voluntary organisations. The aim of the campaign is to provide employees with a means to challenge unlawful discrimination and assert their right to equal treatment by ensuring that Complainant Aid is made a statutory right in all discrimination cases.

Conferences there instructs he NBMC to:

1. Adopt the National Complainant Aid Campaign as one of the NBMC’s

campaigns for the forthcoming year;

2. Invite a representative from the National Complainant Aid Campaign to

address an NBMC meeting to discuss practical support for the Campaign

3. Publicise the campaign by publishing articles about the campaign in both

Black Action and UNISON Focus;

4. Suspend standing orders for 15 minutes to allow a representative of the

National Complainant Aid Campaign to address Conference.

5. Conduct an investigation into the extent of costs awarded against applicants by tribunal panels in race discrimination cases.