Budget Cuts and the Impact of Austerity on Black Workers and Communities

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2014 National Delegate Conference
24 February 2014

Conference condemns the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition for the widespread and unprecedented destruction of public services that has resulted from the savage and unprecedented reductions in central government funding to local government, health, education, police, probation and the rest of the public sector. Public sector workers have borne the brunt of this in job losses, the pay freeze, and attacks on terms and conditions. But the Coalition Government have chosen to ignore race as a contributing factor to inequality. Black people continue to struggle in the workplace and society due to austerity measures and budget cuts which research has shown have had an adverse effect on Black communities.

With austerity planned until 2018 this will mean Black communities continuing to bear the brunt of these cuts to services, jobs and welfare provision across the UK.

Levels of inequality are rising and this is becoming more acute as many families plunge deeper into poverty made worse as disproportionate gaps in economic and social indicators continue to widen.

Working people and vulnerable groups should not be paying the cost of a crisis they did not create.

Unpublished government figures revealed that in 2012 half of the UK’s young Black men were unemployed and that this rate has increased at twice the rate of young white men. If this situation continues to go unchallenged we will lose a whole generation of talented young Black people to unemployment, debt and underachievement, as we did in the recession of the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

UNISON’s own research has shown how redundancies and job losses have had a disproportionate impact on Black public sector workers. Black communities are also suffering from the cuts in the public services that we rely on.

The public sector cuts and job losses are not just a response to the economic conditions facing the country. They are a sustained ideological attack on public services. These cuts are an attempt by the Tory right to reverse the years of improvements made to public services.

They continue to claim that there is no alternative, but we all know that there is an alternative. This alternative stands in sharp contrast to the vitriolic campaigns of UKIP and the right wing media, who seek to lay the blame for the current economic crisis on immigration and the most vulnerable in our society.

A report from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) concluded that the UK Government needed to develop a detailed action plan to tackle race equality in employment and expressed a number of concerns. The committee recommended that austerity measures should not exacerbate racial discrimination and inequality. At present these recommendations appear to have been ignored by this government.

We deplore the absence of a Government wide race equality strategy. Meanwhile having wasted no time in taking steps to review, amend and delete provisions of key equality legislation which make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race or other protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. Additionally, with the removal of the need to undertake Equality Impact Assessments this will affect the levels of monitoring statistics being published.

UNISON is committed to ensuring that Challenging racism in the workplace puts the emphasis on organising and negotiating around equality. This will become even more important than ever as the economic conditions worsen and lead to higher unemployment and insecurity within Black communities.

These situations must be challenged and an alternative to the austerity measures must be put in place to stop any discriminatory practices and these must be legally challenged by UNISON.

We must call on this Government to provide accurate figures on the effects of the recession and austerity measures on Black workers and to address racial inequality in the labour market, employment levels, access to higher education and decent housing.

Recession can hurt, but austerity kills. The largest network food bank The Trussell Trust estimated that the number of people turning to them for help has been raised by 100% in the past year, many from Black communities.

It is now up to us as trade unionist to start acting in a way that takes into account everyday working life. We should never be passive.

The voice of opposition to the Coalition is being held by UNISON. We are promoting the need for an alternative economic strategy, one that invests in the public sector, creates a climate for economic growth, reduces unemployment levels especially targeting youth unemployment, ensure a tax system that is fair for all and address the system that allows tax avoidance by multinational organisations.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to seek to work with the National Black members committee and service groups to promote an alternative economic strategy that:

1)Focuses on organising and recruiting Black members to build on our equality strategy, collective bargaining strength and campaign for an alternative to austerity;

2)Demonstrates its support for the campaign for a Robin Hood Tax and encourage all members to support this campaign;

3)Offers advice to UNISON regions on appropriate community organisations that they can work in partnership with in local campaigning against the cuts to jobs and services. These community organisations must share UNISON’s values and are committed to campaigning, including political campaigning, in line with the policies and priorities of the union;

4)Considers how the recommendations from the UN CERD can be used to support UNISON campaigns and activities;

5)Highlights a strategy campaign that tackles youth unemployment by working in conjunction with UNISON’s Young Members Forum and the NUS Black Students Association;

6)And continues to identify and challenge patterns of race discrimination in employment practices.