Black workers fighting austerity

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2018 National Black Members' Conference
12 September 2017

This conference notes the austerity agenda following the economic recession of 2007/8 has resulted in a massive attack on public services. The public sector has shrunk as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This has led to fewer workers delivering services in an often highly stressed situation.

However, austerity for the richest 1,000 people has seen their wealth increase by 100 percent since 2010 according to the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’. Their wealth increased by 14 percent in 2016/17 alone. It is estimated that the bosses of the UK’s biggest 100 companies ‘earn’ an average of £5.3 million a year a staggering 386 times the pay of an employee on the Government’s misnamed national living wage.

Black workers also suffer disproportionately when services are cut. However, Black Workers are playing a significant role in fighting the austerity agenda that effectively has taken money from the poor to give huge hand-outs to the rich.

The strikes in many public organisations of low paid privatised workers have been inspirational. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Cleaners, London School of Economics (LSE) cleaners, Barts Health Workers and numerous others where there are high proportions of Black workers show that collective action can fundamentally undermine division and discrimination.

The 2017 general election saw a major swing to Labour on the basis of Corbyn’s manifesto, campaign and daily commitment to support workers fighting austerity.

This conference believes that the fight against austerity is crucial to Black workers being treated as equals in work. However there was workplace discrimination before ‘Austerity’. Discrimination and division are at the heart of exploitation and history has shown that Black workers will be more ruthlessly exploited under this system in good times or bad.

As UNISON members and workers our collective ownership to protect public services and public sector workers under attack is fundamental and our track record in defending workers rights, organising vulnerable workers and tackling prejudice, discrimination and exploitation is vital.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Black Members’ Committee to:

1)Highlight in Black Action, official UNISON disputes, that have a significant number of Black members involved and profile or identify potential activist that we could support in their development in leadership positions;

2)Draw up an Action Plan to involve more Black members in the union as workplace representatives in their branch;

3)Work with the Service Groups, especially health and Local Government, to develop an Action Plan and negotiating guide at all levels to tackle workplace discrimination in pay, conditions, recruitment and dismissal rates;

4)Work with the Labour Link to ensure that UNISON’s programme for an alternative to austerity is promoted within the Labour manifesto and supported across the public sector by members in the workplace.