Challenging racism in the workplace

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
16 December 2011

Conference notes with concern that recent research published this year by the University of Bradford which suggests that staff from Black backgrounds are “overrepresented in disciplinary procedures and that disciplinary processes are not being applied consistently within the NHS”.

The finding that Black employees continue to face significant levels of discrimination and barriers to progression within the workplace confirm the experiences of UNISON’s members. A survey of our Black members in the NHS found that seven out of ten Black members had experienced either racism or racial discrimination. Nearly all of the Black members who had experienced racism or racial discrimination had been exposed to verbal abuse and around one in ten had encountered physical violence. Patients were most likely to be responsible for racial discrimination, followed by colleagues at work. Three-quarters of Black members who reported the incident to management were dissatisfied with the outcome. Six out of ten Black members who reported the incident to the union were dissatisfied with the outcome. A fifth of the Black members did not report the incident to UNISON because they thought the union would take no action.

Conference believes this underlines the importance of bargaining and negotiating for race equality in the workplace to tackling institutional racism and underlines the importance of branches engaging with UNISON’s ‘Challenging racism in the workplace’. It will enable UNISON to identify employers who disregard racist discrimination within the workplace and use our collective power to bargain and negotiate for equality. Engaging in this work, together with the meaningful implementation of the Race Discrimination Claims protocol, will enable real changes to be made for UNISON’s Black members.

Conference recognises that many NHS organisations are making significant progress in raising awareness of, and tackling, racism. However we need to do more to ensure that the NHS is a model employer, reflecting the diversity of the population it seeks to care for. It must be progressive and break the historical pattern of Black staff being in lower graded roles.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to work with the National Black members committee in order to:

1)Ensure that branches are engaging with ‘Challenging racism in the workplace’ and are accessing the new resources that have been produced on fighting cuts and negotiating for equality;

2)Gather evidence on the activities of employers in tackling racist discrimination experienced by Black workers

3)Publicise examples of best practice on negotiating for equality for members working in health.