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Unions mark abolition of slave trade by reaffirming commitment to diversity, inclusivity and anti-racism

UNIONS marked the annual commemoration of the end of the slave trade today by reaffirming their commitment to embracing diversity, promoting inclusivity and actively confronting racism.

Unite and Unison said the event, which celebrates the campaigns of ex-slaves including Oloudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, is a reminder that the “same determination and organisation are needed today to counter messages of hate and division.”

The International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is held each year on August 23: the anniversary of the start of a successful insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue — modern-day Haiti — in 1791. The revolt ended in 1804 when the former colony won its independence.

Unite regional equalities officer Taryn Trainor said the uprising “played a crucial role in the eventual abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and reminds us that abolition was driven and eventually won by enslaved and formerly enslaved persons.

“As trade unionists, the fight for abolition reminds us that struggle must always be informed and directed by those most directly affected.

“The impact of chattel slavery continues to resonate today — not just in monuments and the names of public buildings and spaces but also in the ongoing discrimination faced by people of African descent.

“As attempts are made by far-right actors to stir up hatred, fear and anger against migrants and refugees, many fleeing war and oppression, unions must draw inspiration from the movement to end slavery and work side by side with those being targeted to build an inclusive society.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea stressed the public-service union’s unwavering commitment to social justice and equality.

She said: “We honour the memory of those who fought against the abhorrent system of slavery and remember all the courageous figures — activists, leaders and others — who paved the way for the abolition of such a dehumanising system.

“Today we face the urgent challenges of modern slavery and racial inequality. While commemorating the abolition of the slave trade is an act of remembrance, it also serves as a call to continue our hard work in educating, raising awareness and challenging injustices.”

Unite and Unison are Britain’s two biggest unions, representing more than two million workers.

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