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Number of black and ethnic minority workers trapped in insecure work has ‘boomed’ over past decade, TUC warns

‘Jobs that are safe, secure and pay a living wage must replace precarious roles which exploit black workers’ labour,’ Black Activists Rising Against Cuts tells the Star

A TOXIC mix of Tory austerity, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and entrenched institutional racism is failing black and ethnic minority (BME) workers, the labour movement warned today.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac) told the Morning Star that action is needed to ensure “safe, secure jobs which pay a living wage” after the TUC unveiled damning research showing the number of BME people trapped in insecure work has more than doubled since 2011.

The shocking analysis reveals a whopping 836,340 BME citizens were forced to survive on temporary jobs or zero-hour contracts last year — up from 360,200 soon after the Tories returned to Downing Street.

The chance of such workers being lumbered with precarious work has also increased, from one in eight 11 years ago to one in six now, the union body said.

It noted that this “boom” accounts for the vast majority of the overall increase in insecure work for all workers across the economy, with BME employees accounting for two-thirds of the growth, despite making up just 14 per cent of the overall workforce.

The TUC warned Britain is becoming a “nation of insecure jobs” under Tory rule, with an eye-watering 3.9 million trapped on precarious contracts — one in nine nationwide.  

General secretary Paul Nowak said: “No matter your background, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. 

“But too many [BME] workers are trapped in low-paid, insecure jobs with limited rights and protections, and treated like disposable labour — it is structural racism in action. 

“These barriers lead to stark inequalities and it’s why we’re seeing BME workers disproportionately in the worst jobs with the worst pay and conditions.”

Mr Nowak called time on the “scourge of insecure work once and for all,” adding: “That’s how we start to tackle the discrimination that holds BME workers back.”

He blasted the growing number of precarious jobs across the country, with about an eighth of positions in London and the Midlands alone now falling into this category. 

But, while the proportion of white workers in insecure work has increased by 0.3 per cent to 10.8 per cent over the last decade, for BME workers it has jumped from 12.2 to 17.8 per cent, the head of the TUC stressed. 

He repeated calls to abolish “exploitative zero-hours contracts, introduce fair pay agreements to lift pay and standards across whole industries and create a duty on employers to report their ethnicity pay gap and take action to close it.” 

Barac’s Zita Holbourne told the Star that she had co-founded the campaign group in 2010 as “black workers were subjected to disproportionate redundancies and difficulties securing work again due to systemic and institutional racism.

“Add over 10 years of austerity to a global pandemic and this has just amplified those impacts,” she said. 

“Black workers are more highly concentrated in precarious employment because racism prevents them from getting a foot in the door for more secure, permanent work, leading to knock-on impacts on their standard of living, housing, education access and ill health. 

“Institutional racism in employment should not be tolerated and jobs which are safe, secure and pay a living wage are needed to replace precarious roles which exploit black workers’ labour.”

The damning intervention came as economists warned that the “slow cooling of the jobs market” is expected to continue when the latest unemployment statistics are published on Tuesday.

The unemployment rate in the three months to June 30 is likely to have remained unchanged at 4 per cent, Pantheon Macroeconomics predicted.

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