Black Workers and In-work Poverty

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2018

Conference notes that despite efforts to bring further equality into society, evidence shows that Black workers are still being held back in the work place. Inequalities in employment and income persist, and for many Black workers, this impacts upon their standard of living and increases their experience of living in poverty.

According to the Department for Works and Pension, Black people’s employment has increased by 3.2 percent from 2010 to 2015 resulting in a reduction in the gap in employment rates between Black and white people. However, most of this growth has been in precarious, insecure low-paid employment, combined with lack of progression which has not been favourable. Data collected – undertaken by the local government service group and national Black members committee – demonstrated that in some councils Black workers are under-represented within the workforce and not reflective of the wider community.

A report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission titled, ‘Healing a divided Britain: the need for a comprehensive race equality strategy’ shows that Black workers are moving into more insecure forms of employment at higher rates than white workers.

They were twice as likely (4.3 percent) to be in involuntary temporary employment in 2014 compared with white workers (2.1 percent). Black workers are more than twice as likely to be in agency work. This increased by nearly 40 percent between 2011 and 2014 for Black workers, compared with a 16 percent rise for white workers (TUC, 2015).

The report also shows that the number of Black workers in low-paid jobs increased by 12.7 percent between 2011 and 2014, compared with a 1.8 percent increase for white workers. Black workers in local government tend to be under-represented higher up the salary scales and management positions.

Other analyses show that inequalities in pay between Black and white workers continue to exist and remain largely unrelated to Black people’s qualifications. While Black education attainment have improved, these gains have not translated into improved outcomes in employment.

The pay gap between white and Black workers is at its widest for those with university degrees. Analysis of TUC’s official statistics shows that Black workers with degrees earn 23.1 percent less on average than white workers with degrees.

In addition Black people who leave school with GCSEs typically get paid 11.4 percent less than their white peers. The pay gap between white workers and Black workers regardless of their educational attainment, is 5.6 percent.

Alongside evidence of low relative pay, Black workers are over represented in low pay jobs. This trend has risen steadily over time and is replicated within our sectors.

Overall, Black workers received lower pay than white people. In 2013, this was at an average pay of less than £10 per hour. Hours of employment, pay rates and job security all affect poverty risk.

In the UK, part time workers are twice as likely, and the low paid three to four times as likely to be in poverty as all workers.

As evidenced by the above trends for Black workers, this implies that most Black workers have increasingly been exposed to the risk of in-work poverty and reduced standard of living despite being in work. We welcome the work undertaken by the local government service group on in work poverty in relation to successive NJC pay claims/campaigns.

Black workers undertaking such employment find themselves disproportionately having to live in low-work intensity households (either in terms of the number of earners or hours worked) and households with low wage earners have a relatively high poverty risk.

For our union, clearly it is important that we support our members both in and outside of the workplace, and how we respond to tackling widespread inequality must remain a priority.

Conference notes that our union continues to challenge employers and sectors to ensure decent pay for all workers. However, it is clear that inequality exists in pay and opportunities resulting in lower work related incomes for Black workers and that further work is required to tackle the root of in work poverty amongst Black members.

Conference recognises that the link between Black people and in-work poverty is complex.

However, Conference calls on the local government service group executive committee to work with the national Black members’ committee to:

1)Undertake a survey amongst Black members in relation to posts held and wages earned within the service group sectors, analysing the impact of outsourcing and use of agency labour on Black workers;

2) Develop an action plan based on the findings of the survey that would enable branches and regions to highlight the issue and impact of in work poverty with employers and to produce appropriate material for branches and regions to use;

3) Encourage branches to work with employers to seek to ensure Black workers pay and work conditions are on an equal basis with all other employees.