2023 Year of the Black Worker

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2023 National Delegate Conference
21 February 2023

Celebrate 2023 as the UNISON Year of Black Workers.

Conference notes that we are half way through the UNISON Year of Black Workers.

Over the past two years we have seen the disproportionate impact of Black workers and communities being hit particularly hard during the pandemic.

Working on the front line, exposed to Covid-19, and in insecure jobs, Conference celebrates our Black members. A survey conducted by The Runneymede Trust, Over Exposed and Under-Protected – The Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Great Britain, highlighted that a number of groups, including black people, are at a greater risk from Covid-19, given that they are “more likely to be working in key worker roles, less likely to be protected with PPE and more likely to live in multigenerational, overcrowded housing, so much less able to self-isolate and shield”. Black workers are particularly likely to be classed as key workers (34%) and workers from Black African backgrounds are more likely to be working outside of their home (41 percent), increasing their exposure to Covid-19.

All this layered on top of a history of institutional racism, which the Westminster government denies.

Conference therefore believes that this is the time to take forward UNISON’s vital work on race equality and make this ‘Year of Black Workers’ an opportunity to celebrate this union’s long history of achievements, to come up with practical steps for change, and to focus our minds on challenging racism in the workplace. It is only by having those broader conversations together about race that is deep rooted in society, that racism can be eradicated.

It is imperative that we look at the role that discrimination has in the workplace. An independent review by Baroness McGregor-Smith in 2017 found that:

1)In terms of opportunities for progression, 29 percent 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 percent;

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

Conference notes that UNISON’s Year of Black Workers campaign is underpinned by the following Mission Statement: “Establishing Legacy to Generate Change”. Through this mission statement two main themes will be focused on: Legacy and Change as an overarching strategic intent of UNISON.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with the National Black Members Committee to:

a)Continue to promote the Year of Black Workers;

b)Generate change and establish a legacy;

c)Encourage all parts of the union to put on appropriate events;

d)Work with all parts of the union to freshly consider their work programmes from a Black member perspective;

e)Gather the Black member experience of work and public services wherever possible;

f)To continue to campaign to close the ethnicity pay gap at work.