Community General Secretary, Roy Rickhuss CBE, yesterday hosted a live zoom call for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) members.
The call was an opportunity for members to hear more about what Community are doing to support BAME workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Roy discussed how we can encourage employers to properly consider the increased risks of COVID-19 for different groups and explained the action he has taken so far to engage with employers.
We heard from Rishikesh Chakraborty from Scientists for Labour who gave the group a detailed overview of the risk factors for COVID-19 and some of the causes of why different ethnic groups are affected to different degrees. Importantly, Rishikesh emphasised that there are huge differences between ethnic groups, and whilst the BAME label can sometimes be useful, a broad-brush approach isn’t always helpful.
This was an opportunity for our BAME members to share their views on what the union movement should be doing to support Black, Asian and other ethnic minority workers, and understand their priorities going forward. We know that at Community there is still more that we can do to make sure that every one of our members is supported as they should be, and we always welcome the opportunity to get feedback on where we can do better.
Abi Sesay, national advocate from IDU Community said “As a union, as we go beyond COVID19 response, we want to be there for all our members and believe we can collectively work to address issues of inequality, racism and discrimination by taking responsibility and having the difficult discussions with our families, friends, workplaces and communities.”
One example of this is the recruitment of equalities reps, reps who are experts in discrimination and actively working to make workplaces fairer and more equal. Today’s call highlighted the importance of this: we heard from members how it can be difficult for someone who doesn’t understand your experiences to be fully supportive in a disciplinary or grievance situation and we will continue to recruit and give specialist training in the area of equalities so that every member gets the support they need.
A key message from the members on the call was that we must treat everyone as an individual. It is not good enough for employers to impose blanket policies based on race, or age. Instead, for risk assessments to really work, each person’s situation must be looked at to understand where and how they work, including how they get to work, and how they live. This allows us to understand what measures may need to be taken to ensure that that person is adequately protected from the risks of COVID-19.
We are grateful to all the members who participated- and we hope to continue this conversation in future. Thanks also to Rishikesh for sharing his time and expertise with us.
Feedback from the session as well as our survey will be fed into Baroness Doreen Lawrence’s inquiry into the effects of COVID-19 on BAME communities. If you would like to contribute to our submission, please get in touch.
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