The new NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) is designed to succeed where previous measures have failed to reverse inequality and discrimination, CSP member Mel Stewart told the 2015 TUC Black Workers Conference.
Recent research shows that the treatment and experience of BME staff within the NHS is very significantly worse, on average, than that of NHS white staff, she told the annual conference of black trade unionists, held in London 17-19 April.
Speaking to a CSP motion she said that for the first time there will be a requirement on organisations employing almost all of the 1.4 million NHS workforce to demonstrate progress against a number of indicators of workforce equality including promotion, training, grading, discipline and bullying.
'Despite the fact that Trusts already collect most of the data that will be required, it is currently rarely published, and almost never acted upon! There is no point in collecting data for its own sake – it needs to be acted upon', she told delegates.
'We need to make sure that NHS organisations talk to their BME staff, and talk to the trade unions. The Standard will not succeed unless employers work in partnership with trade unions and draw on their knowledge and expertise'.
Mel Stewart called on unions to equip their reps to engage fully in the process of discussion, analysis, setting of targets, and progress reviews. She also encouraged unions to make sure that their own house was in order by collecting the relevant data, analysing it and setting their own targets and goals.
Zero hours contracts
Speaking to a motion on zero hours contracts, physio support worker Angela Aboagye noted the increasing use of 'bank' contracts as the standard way of starting employment within physiotherapy.
'It is NHS staff who are being asked to deliver the changes and improvements being demanded, and they deserve better than to be treated like cut price, second class labour', Ms Aboagye told delegates.
Also speaking at the event was intensive care physiotherapist Rekha Soni who supported a motion from the FDA senior civil service union on the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard. Mel Stewart also intervened in debates on mental health and supporting BME members to tackle discrimination within their unions.
The Conference heard that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Race Relations Act. Since 1965 unions have played a vital role in ensuring that legal rights are implemented, in driving forward improvements in workplace and employment rights and in progressing better opportunities for BME people in the UK.