TUC Black Workers’ Conference report 2012 – Defending Black Communities
April 2012 at Congress House, London
The emphasis this year was on protecting the physical and mental well-being of black workers and promoting the career progression of black workers. All 22 of the motions were carried.
Doreen Lawrence addressed conference at the start following which I was again given the honour of moving the GMB motion – “Stephen Lawrence’s legacy”. The first motion of conference, it was also voted as the motion to go forward to be debated at the TUC Conference later this year. The motion acknowledged the improvements made since the MacPherson Report published 13 years ago, but that institutional racism still exists amongst the Met Police as highlighted by the case of Mauro Demetrio – a 21 year old East London black man who was assaulted and racially abused during the riots last year. Institutional racism also exists in employment, highlighted for example, by black unemployment being 2 Y2 times the national average and the lack of career progression for black workers who still fail to achieve senior posts. The motion called for the re-establishment of the Stephen Lawrence Task Force with specific resources.
Brendan Barber confirmed that this Black Workers’ Conference would be his last as TUC General Secretary. Chuka Umunna MP (Shadow Minister) paid him tribute and spoke about the disproportionate way in which black people are adversely affected in society, schools and employment.
There were other related motions regarding BME youth unemployment, apprenticeship schemes (where young black workers are under-represented) and the exposure to racism and bullying particularly in the current adverse economic climate. UNITE moved a specific motion on the “Career progression for Black Workers” calling upon the TUC/affiliates to monitor job losses, particularly at managerial level of ethnic minority workers and to highlight the good practice of those employers who have remained committed to tackling under- representation of black workers at senior levels.
UNISON moved a motion – “Cuts – measuring the impact”, calling for the collection of data on the impact of public sector cuts on the most vulnerable in society and on black workers and asking to ensure that race equality always remains on the trade union agenda. The FBU motion expressed concern about this Government’s downgrading of the Equality agenda and removing Equality representatives.
A passionate and rousing speech was given by Lee Jasper (Co-Chair of BARAC). He spoke about this Government’s ideological attack on society, deaths of black people in custody and multiculturalism, but he also spoke about the “I’m alright Jack” attitude of some people now since arriving to this country from Asia and Africa.
The CWU moved a motion calling for sufficient resources to be made available for trade unions to work pro-actively with anti-racism and anti-fascism groups to continue the fight against far right groups such as the EDL. I supported this motion, emphasising that even though we have now achieved the demise of the BNP, the merger of the EDL with the British Freedom Party represents a renewed, bigger threat from the far right which prohibits any complacency.
Mr Orin Lewis of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust spoke about how black and Asian people fail to help themselves with there being an acute shortage of black and Asian donors of organs and blood. His presentation left all delegates in tears when he recounted the story of his stepson, who obtained a donor from the USA after much difficulty but then eventually died.
Janet Elder spoke about the death in custody of his former paratrooper brother, Christopher Alder who choked to death in a police station whilst officers accused him of faking illness and laughed, making monkey noises. At his funeral, the body given in the coffin was not his, but of a bigger, elderly woman.
This year, the Havana Club Rum Reception had as guests, Mirta Rodriguez and Maria Guerrero, the mother and daughter of “Miami 5” prisoner, Antonio Guerrero and they both spoke about the lack of visitation rights. “Who are the Miami 5?” was also clearly explained, emphasising again the injustice that occurs even in the most advanced and civilised societies.
Warinder Juss – GMB