Chelmsford TUC

Equal Opportunities

Trade Unionists Against Racism & Useful Links

Given the contribution that immigrants have made to the UK for hundreds of years it is deeply worrying that racism still exists in our society. Sadly, racist attacks are becoming more frequent, and institutional racism is a recognised fact of life. Trade unionists have a duty to defeat racism whenever, and wherever, it makes an appearance, particularly within our own Movement.

Brendan Barber, speaking at the National Assembly Against Racism, said that the trade union movement is rising to the challenge to combat institutionalised racism, and that the TUC has adopted an Action Plan that commits us to a serious shift of resources to tackle racism in the workplace. This includes producing joint guidelines with the employers’ organisation, the CBI, and the Commission for Racial Equality, to eradicate racism at work.

The TUC has published many pamphlets on racism including "Resources from the Stephen Lawrence Task Group". This contains a series of booklets and newsletters designed to equip union members, representatives and full-time officials with the skills and confidence to tackle racism in the workplace, and to offer support to members to tackle racism through a grievance procedure or employment tribunals.

As part of its continuing "Unite Against Racism" campaign, the TUC has produced a series of posters depicting workers of different ethnic backgrounds taking pride in a particular prestige product or service. These are available from the TUC.

Chelmsford TUC welcomes these initiatives and congratulates the Trades Union Congress for the excellent contribution it is making to combat racism.

The Race Relations Act

The Race Relations Act (1976) outlaws discrimination in employment. The Commission for Racial Equality, a body established under the Act, has three main functions:

  • to work towards the elimination of discrimination;
  • to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups;
  • to keep under review the working of the Act.

The Commission has issued a Code of Practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment. This operates as a guide to employers and unions on how to implement the provisions of the Act.

The code is not legally enforceable, but if employers ignore its relevant provisions this can be taken into account by Industrial Tribunals when deciding whether race discrimination has taken place.

The TUC publishes some excellent pamphlets on combating racism in the workplace and locality. The following is a check list based on "Union Action for Race Equality - A Negotiator’s Guide" - a pamphlet that was produced by the Labour Research Department for the TUC.

Organisation, Recruitment and participation

  • Set up union membership monitoring procedures.
  • Use results to ensure effective targeting initiatives; and to assess success or otherwise of action taken.

Consider specific recruitment initiatives:

  • Face to face approaches.
  • Literature and publicity in ethnic minority languages.
  • Surveys to establish needs and concerns of black and ethnic minority members.

Increase black and ethnic minority participation in the union:
 Encourage the formation of “self-organised” groups.

  • Encourage black and ethnic minority members to stand as reps.
  • Provide access to race equality training courses.
  • Run specific training courses for black and minority members.
  • Establish a post of union equality officer in your workplace and/or branch.
  • Produce a newsletter giving information about black and minority issues in the union and wider trade union movement.
  • Establish race equality committees at all levels of the union; at national level consider setting up an annual conference specifically for black and ethnic minority members or as part of an equality conference.
  • Ensure that union rules make it clear that racist activity by union members is subject to disciplinary action.
  • Support anti-racist campaigning activities.

Race Equality in the Workplace Equal opportunity policies should:

  • Be negotiated and included in all recruitment literature.
  • Ensure race equality issues are included.
  • Publicise the policy widely to demonstrate the union is committed to tackling discrimination.
  • Establish ethnic monitoring of the workforce to identify areas of inequality/discrimination.
  • Set up a sub-committee to monitor and review workplace agreements for potential discrimination.
  • Pay particular attention to the pay and conditions of black women workers.
  • Consider the possibility of equal pay claims.
  • Make sure that there is a workplace policy on sexual harassment.
  • Consider issues of race and gender discrimination when representing black women.

Collective Bargaining and Race Equality

  • Recruitment, selection and promotion procedures:
  • Ensure there is a procedural agreement which guards against unlawful discrimination.
  • Establish ethnic monitoring of recruitment, selection and promotion procedures.
  • Staff involved in selection should be trained in fair selection and race awareness.
  • Ensure education requirements are not higher than necessary, that overseas qualifications are considered fairly and that selection or psychometric tests do not discriminate.
  • Avoid word of mouth recruitment, head hunting, restricted advertising and employment agencies which use discriminatory practices.
  • Workplace agreements and custom and practice on job transfers should be examined for potentially discriminatory agreements or conditions.
  • Selection criteria for training opportunities should be similarly examined.
  • Establish through monitoring whether there is under-representation of black and ethnic minority staff in senior posts.
  • Where there are performance appraisal pay systems operating, the staff responsible should have race awareness training and assessment criteria should be examined for potential discrimination.
  • Make sure there is a formal appeals procedure relating to performance appraisal schemes which should also be monitored to identify potential discrimination.

Disciplinary agreements and racial harassment:
 Include racial harassment as a specific disciplinary offence to demonstrate that such discrimination is viewed seriously.

  • Include examples of the types of behaviour which constitute racial harassment.
  • Include a “dignity at work” clause which can cover racial and sexual harassment as well as bullying.
  • Encourage black and ethnic minority members to complain to employers if racially harassed by members of the public in the course of their employment.

Extended leave:
 Should be available to all workers regardless of grade, length of service or occupation.

  • Ensure workers’ pay and conditions are protected during extended leave.
  • If leave is unpaid, workers should not lose out on long term benefits such as pensions and benefits related to service and continuity.
  • Protect against bias or favouritism.

Dress requirements/cultural and religious needs:

  • Make sure that any requirements do not exclude black and minority employees where culture and religion require that they dress in a particular fashion.
  • Negotiate exemptions.
  • Negotiate agreements covering time off for different religious holidays and any re-organisation of work.


  • Negotiate space and time for on-premises prayer rooms.
  • Make provision for dietary requirements and preferences.

Health issues:

  • Acknowledge that some black and ethnic minority workers face specific health problems such as sickle cell anaemia.
  • Circulate health care information.
  • Negotiate paid time-off for screening, counselling and support services.
  • Extended maternity leave may be necessary.
  • Ensure healthy canteen dietary options.

Recognition of foreign qualifications:

  • Identify qualifications appropriate to particular jobs and get information on relevant equivalent overseas qualifications.


  • Make sure that homeworkers are employed under a contract of employment with full employment rights and that they are protected by health and safety laws.

Recognition of foreign qualifications:

  • Identify qualifications appropriate to particular jobs and get information on relevant equivalent overseas qualifications.

Contact the TUC for more information on equality for black workers or look at our TUC page.

  • Show Racism the Red Card Show Racism the Red Card has an excellent anti-racism educational pack, a dvd and education pack against Islamophobia, and information about school workshops.
  • Fircroft College , based at Selly Oak, Birmingham, provides an excellent range of courses, some of which are free to senior citizens and those on benefits.

They cover “Understanding Multi-ethnic Britain”, “Strengthening Asian Community Networks”, the “Politics of Race”, “History and Literature”, and many others for those who have in interest in building our communities.