From education to employment

TUC Build on Successful Campaigns Against Discrimination Through Unionlearn

“We want change to happen now!” said Gloria Mills, Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, at a conference entitled Working Against Racism on Friday the 24th of February.

A change in the way trade unions work would have to be rapidly implemented. This change would only take place within an agenda that clearly states the guidelines to be followed by unions to reach their goals. After setting the agenda, trade unions would have to know how they are going to reach those goals, and what tools they are going to use to achieve them.


Cultural awareness is essential when dealing with issues concerning racism, because only then would one have the necessary authority to make decisions that would be fair. In order to achieve equality amongst people of different races and ethnic backgrounds, trade unions should present to the public the difficulties and hardships racism causes for ethnic minorities.

Racism is not a problem to be dealt with individually but through a strong and unified programme from society as a whole. And, in order for society to get involved and know more about racial discrimination, representatives of ethnic minorities should unite together and join trade unions so that they could represent their needs to the society, because at the moment many individuals from ethnic minority groups do not join trade unions fearing that they would lose their jobs.

In order to fight racism, trade unions should try to make a change; firstly within the workplace, secondly through lobbying and campaigning, and finally in the community, said Frances O”Grady, the TUC Deputy General Secretary. Within the workplace, you realise that there exists a pyramid structure, where the Caucasian workers are at the top and workers from ethnic minorities are at the bottom of the pyramid. People at the bottom of the pyramid are paid less, have fewer benefits, and have less chance of being promoted.


Unionlearn, a new organization that is being set up, is going to lead and support union learning, creating an environment where every person regardless of their background would have the same job opportunities, and hopefully there would be an end to discrimination. The Union Academy is also playing an important role in promoting social mobility and social justice, and this will further encourage people to engage more in public and civil life. This would encourage people to interact more with each other and therefore dissolve any barriers that have existed in the past.

Unionlearn is going to be supporting the Union Academy in order to allow it to develop and offer union members better opportunities. The plan also mentions that improving the nation’s skills base and is very important in helping workers attain the professional, technical and communication skills which would improve conditions in the workplace. Also, the Union Academy will make sure that training is tailored to ensure that the needs of individual employers” are met. This means that the people who are going to be employed in the job are the ones who are more efficient, and not employed based on their ethnic background.

Trade unions should not simply plan for the future without considering what they went through in the past, because what they were doing and what happened in the past represent the building blocks that are used to reach the desired result. Change will not happen all at once; people will have to strive for change. With the laws as they are, workers will have to fight for their rights.

Dalia El-Soukkary

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