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“Dire” Conservative record on workplace racism will “only get worse” unless ministers drop damaging Bills, TUC warns

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The Conservatives’ “dire” record on tackling racism at work will only get worse unless the government drops the damaging Strike Bill and Retained EU Law Bill, the TUC has today (Tuesday) warned.

The warning comes on UN anti-racism day, as the two pieces of legislation continue to make their passage through parliament.

The Strikes Bill due back in the House of Lords on Thursday.

Damaging Bills must be dropped

The Strikes Bill and Retained EU Law Bill will make BME workers more vulnerable to unfair treatment by unscrupulous employers, according to the TUC.

If passed, the Strikes Bill will mean that when workers lawfully vote to strike in health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning, they could be forced to attend work – and sacked if they don’t comply.

BME workers are overrepresented in two key sectors affected by the legislation – health and transport – and as a result, will disproportionately hit by the Bill, according to the TUC.

The TUC adds that, under the Strikes Bill, BME workers could be unfairly targeted for dismissal by unscrupulous employers, given the discrimination and racism in “every corner of the labour market”.

The Retained EU Law Bill could undermine “key protections” for BME workers, putting them at greater risk of discrimination and ill-treatment, when they are already at the sharp end of a labour market rife with discrimination.

The REUL Bill will automatically start the countdown for thousands of pieces of EU legislation currently transposed into UK law – including vital workplace rights such as holiday pay, rest breaks and health and safety rules protection from discrimination.

These and many other essential protections will disappear from the end of this year – unless Parliament passes new laws to retain them.

Dire record on workplace racism

On UN anti-racism day, the TUC has accused the government of failing to tackle racism at work – labelling the Conservatives’ record in government since 2010 as “dire”.

The union body says “the last thing BME workers need is legislation which tilts the balance of power even further towards the employer and away from them”. 

TUC analysis shows BME workers are overrepresented on insecure contracts – with BME women twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men.

TUC research published last year found that two in five BME people have faced racism at work in the last five years – from “banter” and jokes, through to bullying and harassment.

The research also exposed the institutional racism at work that hits BME workers – like being more likely to be unfairly disciplined at work or being passed over for promotion.  

Half (49%) of BME workers told the TUC they had experienced at least one form of discrimination consistent with institutional racism in the last five years:  

  • 1 in 7 (14%) BME workers reported facing unfair criticism
  • 1 in 9 (11%) said they were given an unfair performance assessment.   
  • 1 in 13 (8%) told the TUC they were unfairly disciplined at work.  
  • 1 in 14 (7%) said they have been subjected to excessive surveillance or scrutiny.    
  • 1 in 8 (12%) of BME workers said they were denied promotions.  
  • 1 in 8 (12%) of BME workers reported being given harder or less popular work tasks than white colleagues. 
  • And around 1 in 11 (9%) told the TUC they had their requests for training and development opportunities turned down.  

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:

“The Conservatives have a dire record on tackling racism at work – and it will only get worse unless they ditch the Strikes Bill and Retained EU Law Bill.

“Too often Black and ethnic minority workers are paid less for doing the same job as their white colleagues, too often they are on insecure contracts and too often they are treated unfairly at work.

“This Conservative government has turned a blind eye while institutional racism has tightened its grip on the labour market.

“Now ministers are launching a brazen attack on the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty – and they are threatening to rip up key workplace protections.

“And it’s BME workers that could be hit hardest.

“These Bills will put BME workers at even greater risk from discrimination and unfair treatment. And the Strikes Bill could even see BME workers targeted with the sack by unscrupulous employers.

“Ministers must do the right thing and drop these damaging Bills before it’s too late.”

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