Socialist Worker

Stand Up To Racism conference calls for action in the workplace

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2691

Speakers at the conference

Speakers at the conference (Pic: SUTR on facebook)


Up to 250 trade unionists and campaigners rallied against racism in Central London on Saturday.

The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) trade union conference brought together people from across Britain.

Those attending debated how to take forward the fight against the Tories and racism in workplaces.

Jenny Martin had come after hearing about it at the Unison union’s black members’ conference last week.

“Racism is institutional and is found across every workplace,” she told Socialist Worker.

“You can’t go up to your employer and stay that and that there is an issue. You have the stand up and call it out,” she said.

At the opening plenary speakers talked about how activists could take on racism at work.

Leila, a member of Usdaw, spoke about how she had used a Show Racism the Red Card Wear Red To Work Day to organise against racism from “managers, the public and colleagues”.

“One white worker said they didn’t want anything to do with it because, ‘You can’t say anything anymore.’” she said.

“Another group of workers who are white took her to task.”

Leila said it helped to “identify anti-racists, create black and white unity and gained union members” and allowed them to win against the bosses over a rota system.

Wilf Sullivan, from TUC union federation argued activists had to link the fights against racism and inequality.

“We see the racists as bigots and ignorant,” he said. “What we don’t talk about is the suited, rich people who use racism.

“They’re not necessarily bigots or whites supremacists, but they use racism as part of their strategy to pursue a right wing political agenda.”

Battles

Sullivan argued that the key battles after the Tory election win would be in the streets and workplaces.

“Do you really think that electing the Labour leader will decide the fate of the working class in this country?” he asked.

Alex Kenny of the NEU said the Tory majority meant activists had to “redouble our efforts to build a mass movement against racism and fascism”.

Kenny spoke about how school workers were trying to “create a decolonised curriculum”, take on the anti-Muslim Prevent agenda and start a no exclusions movement.

He explaining that some pupils were excluded for “the wrong hair or their trousers”.

Discussions at workshops included how to build solidarity with refugees, decolonising education and fighting the threat of the far right and fascism.

One workshop focused on building the fight against the Tories’ racist ID checks and charges for migrants within the NHS.

Akram from Migrants Organise, said the policy came from an ideology that said “we need to target migrants and blame them for the collapse of the NHS”.

Clare from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said, “These regulations have been up scaled and up scaled since 2004 and it requires midwives to collect demographic information.”

She described how some midwives had found ways to “circumvent” collecting the information—name, date of birth, address— on patients.

One health worker from east London said workers at some departments at her hospital refused to collect information on patients.

Another worker described how social workers are “being disciplined under capability” for refusing to gather details of patients that could be used by immigration authorities.

Speakers emphasise the need for big campaigns to give people confidence to refuse to comply with the racist checks.

Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of SUTR, called on people to join the SUTR national demonstrations in Glasgow and London on 21 March.

He said that Boris Johnson “this week alone” showed the need to bring together all the different fights and build a bigger movement against racism.

“We’ve seen the racism around the coronavirus, the Jamaican deportations and the way the government is tearing child refugees from their families,” he said.


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