Securing the Legacy and Making 2023 the Year of Black Workers

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2023

Conference notes that UNISON has declared 2023 the Year of Black Workers (YofBW2023).

This conference notes that whilst 2023 is the Year of Black Workers, and its focus of ‘Establishing legacy to generate change’, this year in and of itself is not the change we seek, it is merely the opportunity to generate change.

Black Workers up and down our society often find themselves in low-paid, insecure work, with poor terms and conditions. Despite the Westminster government denying that Institutional Racism exists in our society, we know that it does.

Our campaign to get employers to reduce the ethnicity pay gap, urgently addressing the cost-of-living crisis, and understanding how Black workers power the UK’s economy, will all be central to our campaign activities.

Black workers have an important role to play in challenging racism, injustices and eliminating discrimination, fighting in-work poverty and achieving equal pay. Their experiences and voices must be heard in local government campaigns.

In 2017, an independent review undertaken by Baroness McGregor-Smith found that:

1) In terms of opportunities for progression, 29% of Black Caribbean employees reported feeling that they have been overlooked for promotion because of their ethnicity.

2) In terms of top management positions, the Black and Black British group did particularly poorly over the period between 2007 and 2012, with the number of Black/Black British people in top management positions decreasing by 42%.

3) 30% of those from a Black background reported experiencing or witnessing racial harassment or bullying from management in the last five years.

With UNISON having an estimated 185,000 Black members, it is imperative that we build upon our long history of achievements in tackling inequities in our society by taking concrete action to enable Black members to take the next step in our journey towards justice.

Conference strongly believes that it is the duty of all trade unionists to fight racism. The YofBW2023 provides everyone in the local government service group the opportunity to celebrate our union’s long history of achievements, to take forward UNISON’s vital work on race equality, to have those uncomfortable conversations and to come up with practical steps for change and focus our minds on challenging racism in the workplace.

YofBW2023 can also be used to highlight the experiences of our Black members, focus on building our organising work to increase meaningful participation of Black activists, particularly young Black activists, who can provide a voice for others in the workplace.

UNISON is far more than just another trade union; UNISON is an organisation that seeks to improve the lives of its members and wider society by challenging the status quo and seeking to generate change.

With this being the case, this conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

a) Work with the National Black Members Committee to release statements endorsing the YofBW2023 and build support for branches to make the YofBW2023 a priority part of their work plan and agenda;

b) Provide regular materials to branches and regions that both highlight inequalities, and also the campaigns against racism inside and outside the workplace that we can learn from, for example where Black workers have organised and taken action against low pay or to come back in-house, or have joined local and national campaigns against racism and inequality.

c) Work with the National Black Members Committee and other Self-Organised Groups to understand the number of Black members in the service group, and work to encourage those that do not have their ethnicity recorded in their membership data to update this;

d) Work with the National Black Members Committee and other Self-Organised Groups to analyse and interpret the data captured from (point b), to create and implement a strategic plan to work towards ensuring that Black members are represented proportionately within the structures of the service group from branch to executive levels;

e) Work with the National Black Members Committee to develop an action plan for supporting Black members to become active within the union and their workplaces;

f) Provide the necessary support, training, and opportunity for Black members to become involved in marking the Year of Black Workers 2023;

g) Work with the National Black Members Committee and branches to capture ethnicity pay gap data from employers, and support branches to work with those employers to develop a strategy to reduce the pay gap, with the long-term aim of eradicating it in its entirety

h) Work with the National Black Members Committee and UNISON’s Learning and Organising Service to develop a training and development plan to ensure that all activists within the service group receive training in ‘Defining Black’ and the ‘Race Discrimination Protocol’;

i) Promote UNISON’s mentoring scheme and encourage newer and less experienced Black and particularly young Black members/activists to come forward and take part in the scheme. Work with regions to raise awareness amongst Black activists about training on mentoring that can be delivered in the branch and region;

j) Work with branches and the National Black Members Committee to collect the data around the number of race/equality cases within the service group, analyse the data to identify any commonalities between the cases and work to develop toolkits to tackle these issues;

k) Support branches within the service group to negotiate with employers to get them to sign UNISON’s Race at Work Charter

l) Work with local government employers to identify and share good practices that are currently in place which support the recruitment, retention, and progression of Black people in local government workplaces and careers.

Furthermore, this conference believes that by taking these steps, UNISON will be able to work towards its mission of ‘establishing legacy to generate change’, but more importantly, these steps will support branches, the service group and UNISON as a whole to be able to meet the needs of our Black members, and improve our ability to lead the way in the journey towards the more equitable and just society we all want, need and deserve.