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Black workers on the Covid frontline suffer harassment, racism and bullying

ACTION is needed to protect black workers from abuse in health care, unions and campaigners warned today following a report into the inequality suffered by “Covid heroes” based on their ethnicity.  

Lower-paid ethnic minority health and social care workers experienced bullying, racism and harassment at work, according to evidence to an inquiry conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Poor data collection by their employers could also be masking the extent of discrimination against them, according to Britain’s equality regulator.

Job insecurity in the sectors caused fear of victimisation among low-paid ethnic minority staff, particularly if they were to raise concerns, the inquiry’s report said.

In England and Wales, ethnic minority workers were more likely to be employed on zero-hours contracts and job insecurity also contributed to the fear of victimisation and loss of jobs.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Black workers make a vital contribution to the health and care sector but are all too often at the bottom of the pay scale as care workers, porters, healthcare assistants and catering staff.

“Reversing decades of underfunding, privatisation and hostile immigration policies that allow discrimination to thrive are the way to make a lasting difference.”

Ms McAnea said ministers could “begin to put things right by embedding the real living wage, guaranteeing proper wage rises and ensuring decent sick pay.

“Investment in training and development to improve the chances for neglected staff will also help turn things around,” she said.

“But lofty words about reforming health and social care won’t mean a thing unless the workforce are treated properly, respected and given the opportunities they deserve to access higher paid roles.”

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts national chairwoman Zita Holbourne said that black and minority ethnic workers and migrant workers were at the heart of keeping Britain running during Covid-19, especially in the health sector, but were mostly in low-paid precarious work.

She highlighted figures which showed that black, Asian and minority ethnic people contracted and died from Covid-19 disproportionately as a result of being in high-risk environments, and that they faced institutional racism.

“Yet another investigation telling us what we know because we live and breathe it,” she said.

“What is needed is action to eradicate racism including in the labour market where our labour is depended upon to keep the economy running, but [instead it is] taken for granted and exploited.”

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