Socialist Worker

Worker wins long fight over racism

Issue No. 1800

THE multinational Ford has again been exposed for institutional racism after a second Asian worker won an industrial tribunal. Shinder Singh Nagra spoke out in support of fellow Ford worker Sukhjit Parma, whose experience of repeated racist harassment became front- page news in 1999. Sukhjit was subjected to a four-year campaign of abuse by his foreman and group leader in the Engine Plant at Ford Dagenham.

The shocking details of his case, revealed in his successful industrial tribunal, fuelled a strike by 2,300 Ford Dagenham workers against racist harassment. Ford boss Jac Nasser was forced to meet TGWU union leader Bill Morris and claim there would be 'zero tolerance' of racism inside the plant.

But this hollow promise has been exposed, as another worker in the Engine Plant has won his case of racial harassment. 'I saw everything that happened to Sukhjit Parma, so I spoke out,' Shinder Singh Nagra told Socialist Worker.

'After that I had a dreadful time. It was like hell working there. I suffered racial abuse, racial discrimination and use of abusive racial language. I was threatened with physical violence, including promises to 'chop my head off'. Every time I reported the matter to management they were hostile. I have been off work with stress since August 1999. I have children at university that I haven't been able to support because I have been ill because of Ford.'

The company's own investigation, which was detailed in last week's Daily Mirror, recorded some of the incidents directed against Shinder. In one of them a line operator, David Gilbert, said, 'I now know how to call a Paki a Paki and get away with it.' He was later promoted to group leader.

Shinder's industrial tribunal said the man who carried out the internal inquiry was himself guilty of discrimination, and that 'his loyalty to Ford clouded his judgement'. The climate created by Ford management gave confidence to a minority of hardcore racists, particularly the foremen. Shinder took his complaints to the TGWU.

A year later it put him under pressure to accept a deal from Ford. Shinder turned it down because it meant he could not speak out about the racism inside Ford.

'The union tried to shut my mouth up. They wanted me to settle. I refused to sign anything that said I should keep what happened to myself. I wanted to tell the public,' he said.

The TGWU withdrew funding from his case. The Commission for Racial Equality also withdrew legal help, claiming he did not have enough evidence to fight a case. But an industrial tribunal unanimously ruled last month that Shinder was 'unlawfully discriminated against and victimised on grounds of race by the Ford motor company.' 'I am relieved. I feel it is a partial justice,' said Shinder.

He hopes it will boost Asian workers and anti-racists in the plant who oppose the racism inside Ford.

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Article information

Sat 18 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1800
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