Socialist Worker

Trade union conference debates how to push back racism at work

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2643

Workers at the Stand Up To Racism trade union conference last Saturday

Workers at the Stand Up To Racism trade union conference last Saturday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Some 200 people took part in debates at a Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) trade union conference last Saturday.

The day involved serious discussions on challenging institutional racism, defending freedom of movement and resisting attempts to force public sector workers to check immigration documents.

Speakers talked about how trade unions can challenge institutional racism in the workplace.

Bus driver Marcia Carty described how bosses at her company Metroline had threatened to sack her for wearing Rastafarian colours at work.

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “The people that were challenging me were all the big bosses.”

Carty eventually won out.

Andrew Thompson, a bin worker in West Yorkshire, told of how he and his workmates struck against racism by a manager.

Other speakers discussed what institutional racism means.

Wilf Sullivan from the TUC union federation said it’s about how workplace and society structures “are set up to exploit people on the basis of race”.

Rania Hafez, a UCU union member, cited the Prevent programme which targets Muslims for surveillance.

“We have been othered by an official policy—brought in by a Labour government,” she said.


Brian Richardson from SUTR said that racism “is alive and kicking” in all institutions of society today.

A session on defending migrants’ rights and freedom of movement saw a debate on how to resist implementing immigration status checks in the health services.

Rosa Crawford from the TUC said workers could “be proactive” about how they define a person needing emergency care. Patients don’t need to prove their status before emergency treatment.

A Labour councillor from Coventry said, “If you have any issues like this contact your councillors and hold them to account. They should be standing up on this.”

Others spoke about building collective campaigns to resist the checks.

One paramedic described how an east London campaign scored a “partial victory” by forcing Barts Health trust bosses to drop an ID check pilot scheme.

Another health worker said, “We have to build a campaign that says, we will not implement this.

“We have to defend people who are disciplined over it—and have the backing of our trade unions.”

Labour makes a shift on racist council scheme

Labour councils have pledged to withdraw from a scheme targeting migrants following an outcry.

Councils had allowed Home Office staff to sit in on meetings between council workers and migrant families seeking help.

The staff could pass information to immigration officials, potentially leading to deportations.

The scheme shows how the Tory “hostile environment” makes it hard for migrants to access basic services.

Damien Egan is the Labour mayor of Lewisham in south east London, one of the councils to remove the officials.

He said the council wanted “to reassure vulnerable migrants that Lewisham will support them”.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.