To mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UNISON head of organising, and chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ITUC)n Pamela Dooley today launched the latest report from the congress’s migrant workers unit.
The report focuses on the many issues facing migrant workers in the Northern Ireland.
- the need for government to finance targeted support services;
- that challenging racism should be a key criteria for the allocation of public funding to business;
- the commissioning of research on best practices in employing migrant workers;
- a call for trade unions to continue to actively recruit and organise this key sector of the workforce.
The report also calls for the establishment of a single inspection and employment rights enforcement body.
At the launch, Ms Dooley said: “I am pleased to be here this morning as I have worked with migrant workers in UNISON for nearly 10 years. They have made our society much more diverse and colourful and, in my opinion, we have had an opportunity to open our minds and hearts to many different ways of life.
“Not all people in Northern Ireland think like us and, unfortunately, here we are with another important report that shows that migrant workers continue to face added difficulties in the workplace.
“We all wish it wasn’t the case and that the report could just celebrate the achievement of the ICTU migrant workers unit and announce that there is no longer a need for a dedicated migrant workers support project.
“But this is not where we are. Racism is on the rise, not in decline.
“Every line from the Tory government continues to make it worse: the need to curb the benefits for migrant workers.”
And Ms Dooley continued: “There is no end to statements and measures that imply that migrant workers are a problem for the social fabric of the country and a problem for the economy.
“Does this not need to be backed up by facts? It would appear that it just needs to make it into the media and that’s enough to reinforce division and fuel resentment and racism.
“The consequences are palpable. They affect our migrant worker members directly and they poison the minds of some of our local members.
“As Peter Bunting pointed out in his forward, ‘history and common sense tell us that when workers are divided by political opinion, race or religion exploitation flourishes’.
“That is why we need to be vigilant in the trade union movement. The role of the trade union in dealing with racism and discrimination is fundamental.
“In my union, UNISON, the majority of our migrant worker members have been here for many years now. But many of the issues highlighted in this report mirror what we come across day in, day out.
“Migrant workers often feel that they get the worst shifts, the longest hours, always face issues when trying to book leave and they disproportionally end up in disciplinarians.
“One of the recommendations of the report fits in nicely with one of the requests from our migrant workers self-organised group. They have been calling for research highlighting best practise in dealing with racism in the workplace, so the report could be used as a tool to approach employers.
“Fighting racism means challenging governments and supporting organisations that are the voice of those who are marginalised.
“In conclusion, this is an important report and we should fully endorse all the recommendations that come out of it.
“It will be import to ensure that the work of the unit is maintained and developed – not only to provide a safety net for migrant workers, but to ensure the trade union movement fulfils its very important role in dealing with exploitation and racism.
“Speak out and take a stand against racism and zenophobia.”
UNISON Northern Ireland continues to support migrant workers through our Black and migrant workers self-organised group and provides immigration clinics, as well as language classes to prepare for the IELTS exam.
For further information contact Nathalie Donnelly on 02890 270190.
UNISON Knowledge: discrimination (member-only content)