Why race equality must be in unions’ DNA

8 February 2022

The COVID crisis brought communities together like never before to support each other, keep people safe and to recognise the incredible efforts of frontline and key workers, many of them Prospect and Bectu members. But it also exposed many pre-existing inequalities in our communities, not least around race equity in the labour market.

The pandemic has helped to focus our work as a trade union on what matters to members. And that is why we launched our own Race Action Plan developed in partnership with our Black and BAME members and workplace representatives – our members are at the heart of this work.

The plan also speaks to bigger issues we have seen playing out in the last few years. As a trade union we rightly condemned the brutality that happened to George Floyd and so many other people, and we showed solidarity with unions and other community groups supporting peaceful protests around the world.

We will not make work better or more secure for any of us unless we tackle inequality and discrimination. It goes to the core of what we stand for as a union on fairness, respect and looking out for each other. Tackling racism at work is a vital part of this work.

Race Equality Week gives us a chance to take stock of our journey, and to build on the progress we have made so far.

Representation is key, and we want to make sure our leadership best represents our membership. We have relaunched our Bectu Black Workers Network and Prospect BAME network, to provide practical spaces for members to come together. We have a regular black activists’ groups that informs our work and mentors new volunteers into the union. In The spring, we will launch a Diversity Leadership course to support more black and BAME members into representatives roles, and to increase the diversity of our leadership, branch committees and networks.

As trade unionists, we all have a role to play in calling out prejudice and being good allies to our colleagues at work. We are delivering allyship training to Prospect reps and branches to help members better support and advocate for colleagues from minority backgrounds. Get in touch with your Prospect organiser if you are interested in taking part.

Ultimately, the success of this work will be measured by its impact on our black members and reps. The first step is to recognise the inequalities and challenges that exist, the next step is to act. We are consulting with branches to gather feedback on the Race Action Plan to ensure Prospect is taking members on the journey. Nothing about us, without us.

If you are a member you can join the Prospect Race/BAME Network by clicking here or the Bectu Black Workers Network by clicking here.

Freddie Brown is a member of Prospect’s National Executive Committee and Chair of its Equal Opportunities Advisory Committee

Smiling business people sitting together in a meeting room

Race equality hub

For an equal and inclusive workplace