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Race Report: Unison leaders demand PM recognise ‘insult’ to black workers

UNION leaders are calling on the government to reject a controversial report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, calling it an “insult” to workers. 

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 27 trade union leaders claim the commission has failed to recognise the “extent and impact” of institutional and structural racism in the labour market and wider society. 

The report, led by Tony Sewell, has drawn widespread condemnation for downplaying the role of structural racism in Britain and has been rejected by several of its own contributors. 

In the open letter, signatories said that ethnic minority workers are over-represented in low-paid insecure roles, while the level of unemployment is almost double that of white workers.

It notes that ethnic minority workers have to send 60 per cent more job applications before being invited for an interview while a 24 per cent ethnic pay gap exists in London — the region with the highest BME population. 

These inequalities are “compounded” by discrimination people from ethnic minority backgrounds face in the workplace, the letter said. 

“We hoped that the report would recommend action to stamp out insecure work and make employers act to close their ethnicity pay gaps,” the letter reads.

“Instead, the commission has chosen to deny the experiences of BME workers and be complacent about the UK’s progress towards being an anti-racist society.”

The unions are urging ministers to reflect on the “inadequacies” of the report and “recognise the insult it has offered to [ethnic minority] workers, and pick a different path.”

Signatories of the open letter include Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, Unison leader Christina McAnea and teaching union NEU heads Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted. 

They join a long list of politicians, academics, campaigners and doctors who’ve spoken out against the report. Following its publication earlier this month, Labour accused ministers of deliberately sowing divisions. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, who also signed the letter, said: “The Commission on Racial Disparities denied the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers. The Prime Minister must not make the same mistake.

“The government must reject this divisive report. We need a unifying approach that starts with honesty about the reality of structural racism in Britain’s workplaces and society, and sets out action to achieve fair pay, secure jobs and dignity at work for everyone.”


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