New Labour found 'guilty of racism'
"WE HAVE been vindicated. The tribunal's verdict shows that New Labour does not believe in fairness at work and is not prepared to make a stand against racism and sexism." That was the reaction of Cecilia Prosper, one of five UNISON members unfairly sacked by Islington council two years ago. Last week an employment tribunal found Islington council guilty of direct racism, indirect racism, direct sexism, indirect sexism, victimisation and unfair dismissal. The case stems from the sacking of 12 UNISON members.
In May 1998 Islington's New Labour council announced that it was going to restructure the council. Management at the Housing Aid Centre forced every worker to reapply for their jobs. Nine workers were rejected. All were women and all were from ethnic minorities. One of those rejected by the council told Socialist Worker, "We were staggered by the council's attitude. We believed management were enforcing institutional racism and they were being defended by New Labour." Everyone was shocked by the council's attitude. They walked out in protest. The New Labour council used the Tory anti-union laws to sack 12 workers.
UNISON refused to represent the workers because they took unofficial action. Undeterred, the 12 sacked workers took the council to an employment tribunal. Just before Christmas the council offered to settle out of court. Seven workers accepted the council's offer of compensation but five refused to settle. They were vindicated when the tribunal found Islington council guilty. The mayor of Islington council at that time was Meg Hillier.
Hillier is standing as a New Labour candidate in the Greater London Assembly elections in May. Cecilia said, "We took on the council all the way. When Hillier speaks at election meetings I'm going to be there reminding her of her past. I'm proud we made a stand against racism and sexism."