Blog: Challenging racism matters to every branch

Challenging all forms of racism in the workplace is vital to UNISON’s work

Christina McAnea

This Saturday, 27 February, the TUC and trade unions will be holding an online conference, From COVID-19 to #BlackLivesMatter – Fighting for an Anti-Racist Workplace.

The conference will hear from trade union activists fighting institutional racism, defending the rights of migrant workers, opposing the “hostile environment” and all manifestations of racism.

The TUC conference is in preparation for the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which takes place on 20 March.

Trade unions will come together united against racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and fascism. Unions will also stand in solidarity with all refugees and migrant workers.

UNISON will be setting out our campaign to challenge racism in the workplace and will be promoting a zero-tolerance approach to racism in any form.

UNISON is also supporting the TUC and Stand Up to Racism-organised UN Anti-Racism day of action on Saturday 20 March, representing a broad alliance of communities and organisations that make up the anti-racist movement.

The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a fresh spotlight on the horrific levels of racism around the world and the everyday racism Black workers experience.

With the coronavirus crisis disproportionately impacting Black communities, it means that the pandemic is intensifying systemic and structural racism, and pre-existing economic and health inequalities.

It has also led to a spike in race and hate crime directed at British Chinese and east Asian people.

Challenging racism and winning equality is at the heart of everything UNISON does. We will continue to play a key role in the anti-racism movement and in fighting racism.

We will fight for anti-racist workplaces that keep trade unions strong and united and able to challenge the divide and rule actions of employers.

Through organising collectively, UNISON members are in a stronger position to resist the difference and division often used by unscrupulous employers to undermine trade union organisation and recognition.

Challenging all forms of racism in the workplace is vital to UNISON’s work – whether it involves bargaining and negotiating for members, growing our membership or challenging pay discrimination, reorganisations and redundancies.

We must use our collective bargaining mechanisms to monitor, collect and analyse patterns of discrimination and racism in the workplace. Moreover, we must make use of equality legislation to challenge racism and to hold employers to account.

Equality can become a reality in our workplaces by building UNISON’s organising strength through high membership density and collective bargaining. We will ensure our activists have the organising tools to continue the tremendous work they are doing in challenging situations.