Black members’ conference confronts cost of living crisis

Delegates back call to fight for above-inflation pay rises

Adejare Oyewole from the national Black members’ committee

Of the 24 motions passed at UNISON’s national Black members’ conference in Edinburgh at the weekend, four focused on ways to support Black workers during the cost of living crisis. 

Introducing the second motion on the subject, Adejare Oyewole (pictured), from the national Black members’ committee, described how, as inflation continues to increase, Black members will face hardship.

The motion declared: “The only way that our members, especially Black members, can stand up to the crisis is by taking action to win at or above inflation pay rises.”

The motion called on the committee to work with the union’s national executive council (NEC), service group executives and self-organised groups to organise and fight against in-work poverty by supporting at – or above – inflation pay rises for all our members.

It also demanded that branches push for mandatory ethnicity pay gap data to be published by all employers and encourage all Black members to be involved in campaigning for at-or-above inflation pay rises and support Black members to put themselves forward for activist positions.

Supporting the motion, Helen Laker from UNISON Southwark branch said: “We should pursue mandatory ethnicity pay gap data in our branches.”

Estwar Sanichar from Northumbria Northern region said: “There are links between the fight for pay and the fight against racism. Black workers in the UK are disproportionately paid below the real living wage. 

“The cost of living crisis does not affect us all equally. Black people are disproportionately impacted.”

Quoting Terry Pratchett, Mr Sanichar said: “Only in our dreams are we genuinely free, the rest of the time we need wages.”

Another motion focused specifically on the way the cost of living was impacting on Black workers’ mental health.

Introduced by the Scottish Black members’ committee, the motion called for the national committee to create an assessment tool that employers can use to identify Black people’s needs and support their mental health.

Speaking in support, a delegate from Birmingham said: “The issue is pride and stigma. A lot of Black colleagues are embarrassed of going to the food bank, so we suffer in silence, which leads to depression and mental health issues.

“As colleagues, we all need to be more observant and ask each other “How are you? No, how are you really feeling?”