The Black Experience – UNISON’s Freedom of Informatiom

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
20 February 2013

UNISON’s initial Freedom of Information (FOI) exercise conducted in the Greater London, West Midlands and North West regions has revealed that a significant number of local authorities are shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. Those FOIs show the number of Black staff that have been made redundant in the financial year 2010/2011.

In seventeen of the Capital’s councils, Black workers were unfairly bearing the brunt of the cuts, and paying the price with their jobs. Results from the West Midlands and the North West have identified further patterns of discrimination.

Black women were being disproportionately affected in at least twelve of the London councils concerned where they constituted just 5% of the workforce but made up at least 23% of the redundancies taking place.

UNISON in partnership with the TUC, Runnymede Trust and other trade unions is undertaking research mapping the equality impact of cuts to public services. We need this information as soon as possible and where this research identifies further discriminatory practices these need to be challenged and an alternative to the austerity measures must be put in place.

As well as forming a significant part of the public sector workforce Black people are also primary users of public services. Cuts to funding are closing some services whilst putting significant pressure on remaining community and voluntary organisations supporting the Black and other vulnerable communities at a time when they are needed the most.

Challenging Racism in the Workplace (CRW), remains focused on defending public services and fighting for Black members’ jobs and conditions of service. The principle of collecting information and using evidence of inequality and disproportionate impact to negotiate, bargain, organise and campaign on race equality is at the heart of CRW. This makes the use of FOI and CRW a cohesive strategy to utilise the information that is collected to challenge discriminatory practice on behalf of Black members and fight cuts to services affecting communities and all public sector workers.

Conference calls on the Local government service group executive to work with the NBMC to:

1)Seek to extend the FOI request to cover all the remaining regions

2)Examine and discuss with the NEC whether a legal challenge can be made under the Equality Act 2010 where there is any evidence of discriminatory practices highlighted by this research

3)Provide support and advice for branches, including training to use available data where appropriate, to challenge their employers using the Challenging Racism in the Workplace toolkit and in the Race Discrimination Claims Protocol

4)Develop guidance and templates on how to submit a Freedom of Information enquiry on race statistics for branch use

5)Develop a campaigning strategy linked to UNISON 2013 objectives to highlight the disproportionate impact the cuts are having on public sector Black workers and defend Black community projects threatened with closure or funding cuts