Anti-racism taskforce

Support, guidance and updates on employment and trade union issues

Anti Racism

Can you tell us about the TUC anti-racism taskforce and why it was set up?

In 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, we witnessed disproportionate numbers of Black workers dying on the job. And, as we watched the shocking murder of George Floyd play out on our screens, our trade unions called on the government to step up. Our trade union movement acted – establishing an anti-racism taskforce.

Racism scars every aspect of working life. As well as affecting decisions on who gets hired and fired, systemic racism impacts Black workers’ day-to-day experiences at work. Our evidence has highlighted major disparities relating to the rate of unemployment, access to career progression and promotion, and the widening race pay gap across all areas of the economy. 

The TUC Anti-Racism Taskforce set out with a mission to not only highlight the problems facing Black workers, but to ask trades unions to lead by example – to step up in the workplace and to work with employers to secure improvements that make a real difference to the lives of Black workers.

It’s also our view that when we tackle the problems of systemic racism – low pay, zero hours work, precarious employment, the failure to prohibit the use of fire and rehire practice and the need for stronger enforcement of workers’ rights, including the right to collective bargaining – this will deliver improvements for all workers.

What do you see as the most significant issues that are facing Black workers? 

Our priority as a taskforce was to examine and disrupt the institutional and systemic impact of racism. That requires structural solutions to the realities that Black workers face. Racism is insidious and deep within the structures of our economy, labour market and institutions. 

Dr Patrick Roach is general secretary of the NASUWT, the teacher’s union, and chair of the TUC Anti-Racism Taskforce. Set up in

Dr Patrick Roach
Dr Patrick Roach

2020 following the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, the taskforce released its manifesto at the TUC Congress 2022. Patrick spent some time with Frontline to talk about the work of the taskforce and how you can get involved

The taskforce commissioned the largest study in the UK into the experiences of Black workers. The results were shocking but also not surprising. It found that two in five Black workers have faced racism in their workplaces and many had been bullied or had racist comments directed at them whilst at work or been the butt of racist jokes and “banter”, or made to feel uncomfortable at work due to comments made about their appearance. This is an everyday reality for many Black workers, including members of my own union – teachers who are members of the NASUWT. For example, many Black teachers say they have experienced discrimination when they apply for jobs or for promotion. We know from our research that Black teachers are more likely to be subject to capability or disciplinary procedures and they are up to 50 per cent less likely to be granted performance related pay progression than their white colleagues. This suggests a system that is rigged against Black workers.

At the same time, too few Black workers report incidents of racism to their employer or to their trade union because they fear they will not be believed. We all have a duty to call it out, to support our colleagues and to demand change. 

How can CSP members play their part in the manifesto? 

We want all workers to join us and join in. Our Anti-Racism Manifesto is about the work of our unions and our members, and we want to see all unions open the space for dialogue, debate and action within democratic structures so that we can take forward work to advance racial justice at work. We have given unions a framework to have these conversations in relation to their work on trade union organising, collective bargaining and public policy campaigning.  

We want to see all workers and union members talking about how, collectively, through their unions, they can contribute to tackling racism, and we want every union to take steps to ensure that Black workers are part of the conversation too. 

If there are three things you could ask readers to go away and educate themselves on, what would they be? 

  1. Learn more about the history of Black people in the UK and the contribution of Black workers to building our society today, including our NHS.
  2. Ask about the experiences of service users from Black and other minority ethnic backgrounds. If the research isn’t there, press for it to be.
  3. Find out more about what the CSP and the TUC are doing when it comes to our work on anti-racism and how you can get involved. Why not attend an online event or come along to an event in person – being part of the debate is a great way to deepen your knowledge and understanding. 

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