Coalition government plan to weaken equality laws

The TUC has warned that the coalition government plans to weaken equality laws by 2013 in a ruthless pursuit to please businesses at the expense of vulnerable groups such as black and minority ethnic (BME) workers.

BME Communities suffer most from government cuts

According to a TUC  report titled, “Black Matters“, in August 2012, unemployment for young black men have doubled from 28.8% in 2008 to 55.9% towards the end of 2011, which is twice the rate of young white people. (P.4)

When I covered the annual TUC Black Workers’ Conference in 2011 (Read A bleak future for black and minority ethnic British workers says TUC conference), the TUC said that the unemployment rate for Black and Asian workers rose from 10.2 percent in October-December 2007, to 13 percent in the same period last year, a figure nearly twice as high than whites.

It was also mentioned that since 2007 the rate of unemployment among black women has ballooned to a massive 68 percent, and 24 percent among black males in just three years, and it was estimated that at least 127,000 Black and Asian workers will be on the dole as a result of the public sector cuts.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

Black workers are bearing the brunt of Britain’s jobs crisis. It’s a truly desperate situation, with the unemployment rate for workers from ethnic minority backgrounds almost twice the level for white workers.”

It gets even worse for black youngsters – almost one in three are without work. That’s not just a terrible waste of talent, but evidence of persistent discrimination within the labour market.” (TUC: 8 April 2011)

Barber mentioned a serious point often overlooked by the mainstream media in Britain, that the high unemployment rate within BME communities shows a persistent pattern of racial discrimination in the job market which no government in office has seriously tackled.

Even when in employment BME workers face racial discrimination.

At the 2009 Black Worker’s Conference Leslie Manasseh, and Chair of the 2007 Black Worker’s Conference, said that once in employment BME) workers face racial barriers to job-related training, education and promotion.

In 2010 a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) titled, “How Fair is Britain?”, (Read New equality report reveals a racially unequal Britain) said “Recent research found that Black and Asian groups earn less than White British people with the same qualification level and in particular Black male graduates earn 24% less than White British male graduates.” (p.415)

The government agenda to weaken equality laws

The coalition government plans to remove provisions in the equality legislation which protects employees from third party harassment. According to the TUC, “This makes an employer liable for repeated racist, sexist, homophobic or other prejudice-based harassment of staff by third parties like service users, customers or clients, where the employer has failed to take reasonable steps to protect them.”

In sectors such as education, health, social care, transport and retail where racial abuse against BME workers is common this provision is vitally important to ensure that employers protect BME workers from racial harassment. A female Zimbabwean care worker, who worked in a residential home, told the TUC, “There’s a resident that can say, ‘I don’t want black people. Don’t touch me. You are black. Go back to your country‘.” In this incident her employer would be obligated to address the matter and ensure that the racist resident understood that behaviour like that would not be tolerated.

Yet the Ministers for Equality, Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone said that there is no need for this provision in the equality legislation.

The government also plans to get rid of the provision which gives powers to tribunals to recommend changes in a particular workplace where the employer has been found guilty of discrimination. This means that when found guilty of discrimination an employer will not be obligated to change work practices in order to protect other employees from experiencing the same discrimination.

The government also plans to get rid of the statutory discrimination questionnaire procedure, where an employee who feels that he/she has been discriminated against can seek information from their employer to see if they have discriminated against another employer before. This was an important provision to the original Race Relations Act 1976 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975, as it was very difficult to prove discrimination without some form of corroborating evidence. The Discrimination Law Association said, “Without the kind of information which individuals can only obtain through written questionnaires under s.138, in many cases it will be almost impossible to prove discrimination.

The Assault on Equality: Budget Cuts to equality and voluntary race organisations

The TUC said that according to the Legal Services Research Centre, 62% of people who faced discrimination did not know their rights and disturbingly nearly 40% did nothing or tried and due to lack of advice abandoned their case.

Already, the Equality and Human Rights Comission faces budget cuts which has seriously effected their ability to tackle discrimination cases and provide advice.

Instead victims will have to turn to legal aid which in many cases is being withdrawn from employment, housing and social welfare by the government, so they will have nowhere to turn to.

Julie Bishop, Law Centres Federation, told the TUC, “The discrimination category that remains under legal aid will not replace the work done previously by Law Centres with EHRC funding. If you’re discriminated against you’re just going to have to put up with it – unless of course you can afford thousands of pounds to pay for legal advice.”

Pay As You Go Equality

What the government is planning is for a pay as you go equality culture where only those who can afford to fight their discrimination case will get help.

From 2013 it will cost £250 just to start a discrimination claim for a tribunal. It will cost a further £950 for a hearing, plus other tribunal expenses as the case progresses, and if an individual wants to appeal a tribunal decision, it will cost them £1,600 to attend the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

According to the TUC only 2 to 3% of discrimination cases are successful, so it is not hard to imagine how many individuals will decide to fight discrimination cases once these changes come into effect.

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber said, “This is chequebook justice pure and simple. It is a profoundly regressive step… giving a green light to unscrupulous employers to discriminate at will.”

The government also plans to weaken the equality legislation which ensures that public bodies comply with the Race Relations Act.

Maxie Hayles, founder of the Birmingham Racial Attacks Unit, which has had to close due to government funding cuts.

Already many voluntary race organisations have been forced to close or suspend their services due to government budget cuts. Most notably, the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU) has had to close following crippling funding cuts by local authorities.

Founded in 1969 by Maxie Hayles, BRAMU has dealt with 30,000 inquiries and over 6,000 live cases. However, in 2010 the council withdrew its funding and the organisation has had to rely on church, community and trades union donations, but sadly it has not been enough to sustain the services.

Hayles said that it is important that there are independent racial organisations, yet one important factor he misses is that whilst BRAMU received funding from the government it was never truly independent.

Community members are now planning to set-up a new organisation which will include gender and disability as well as race.

A crucial time for BME communities to act!

If ever there has been a time where BME communities need to come together and act, it is now. The future of race relations in this country in the current economic climate is set to become hostile, and with the government’s plans to remove most of the legal protection BME communities had in employment there is an immediate need for voluntary race organisations funded by BME communities to be formed.

It is extremely crucial that race organisations that are formed by BME communities are not tied in any way to the government, this is the only way the organisation can remain truly independent and be a voice for the community that it represents.

If you are a member of an existing voluntary organisation or wish to form an organisation you can contact us with stories, ideas or just to share your thoughts on the way forward at: editor@minorityperspective.co.uk

For further research:

http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-21425-f0.cfm

http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-21342-f0.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-19499182

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2012/09/08/anti-racism-campaign-group-wound-up-but-handsworth-activists-plan-successor-97319-31791036/


Print pagePDF pageEmail page

This entry was posted in National News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Coalition government plan to weaken equality laws

  1. freethemind says:

    The Human rights Act regarding race which came into force 2000 was really forced onto bigoted Britain, and frosty France, who really didn’t like the idea of ethnic minority having so much voice and thus the HRA 2000 (Human Rights Act) was not taken seriously only certain parts which benefited white working people regarding rights in the work place and annual leave rights etc…

    Britain tries to incorporate her own cannon law to run with conjunction with the HRA in the bid to override any race law already established by Brussels. When British Parliament or legal executive does this their act becomes purposefully illegal as the intent of the omission or commission becomes incompatible with the convention regarding section 14 of the HRA which states that any type of discrimination is prohibited. The new rules that are to be enforced is an example of subtle inequality.

    If ethnic minorities as a result of these changes suffers more inequality then the HRA 2000 is only there to serve white working class, and gender or sex orientation interest such as the right to marry which many gay people have now benefited from under article 12. This section was not open to legal interpretation but literally meant everyone not just heterosexuals. And all because of a word ‘everyone’

    Anyone reading on Race laws, and as your article points out, only 3% of race cases are successful! This contradicts article 14 of the HRA. It also contradicts the HRA 2000 ‘that if a person of colour regards an incident to be racist then it must be treated and seen as such’

    What is interesting is that there are hardly any solicitors who specialise in race laws! Not many people know this! That is why many discrimination cases or equality is never challenged but is given to grant funded organisations with trainee solicitors or fresh graduates who hasn’t made their mark yet! This area is vacant which is why so many black people go through unsuccessful claims they are being represented by solicitors with degrees but not specialist who have read upon race laws! Race laws are complex and made that way intentionally!

    What many black people don’t realise is that they have the right to work under the international Human right act 23. 1. But until this knowledge is spread amongst the communities there will continue to be unsuccessful claims as your lovely article points out

    peace watch this space!!

  2. free the mind says:

    Africans shocked by uncivilized antics of European savages

    DAKAR. Africans say they have little hope that Europe will ever become civilized, after a week in which Spain’s King Carlos went on an elephant-killing spree and the Swedish Culture Minister was entertained by a racially offensive cake. “You can take the European out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the European,” sighed one resident of Kinshasa.

    August Mwanasa, of Libreville in Gabon, said the latest atrocities didn’t surprise him as Europeans were still “savages”.

    “I don’t want to sound racist, and some of my best friend are white, but let’s be honest: violence is hard-wired into their DNA,” said Mwanasa. “I mean, Europeans killed over 20 million other Europeans in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s barbarism on a scale unprecedented in history.”

    Jenkins Odumbe, a Nairobi milliner, bemoaned ingrained attitudes of entitlement in Europe.

    “If they’re not going on the dole they’re asking for bail-outs,” he said. “Why can’t they just get up earlier and work harder, that’s what I want to know?”

    Liberte Aidoo, a Ghanaian travel agent, said she had been “shocked and disgusted” by what she found on her first trip to Spain.

    “The brochures promise sea and sun, but they’re still incredibly backward in Spain,” she recalled. “Basically they all live in mud huts called haciendas, and they sleep for two hours in the middle of the day. In Europe they call it a ‘siesta’. In Ghana we call it ‘being fucking lazy’.”

    But, she added, this kind of “depressing inertia” was to be expected in a country with more debt than most of Africa combined.

    Meanwhile, most Africans have dismissed calls for Swedish Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth to resign following the debacle in which she was photographed eating a cake designed to look like a racist caricature of an African woman.

    “The only people calling for her to resign are European liberals hiding behind a thin veneer of civilization,” explained Burundian sociologist, Descarte Tugiramahoro. “We Africans are not shocked in the slightest.

    “All she’s doing is engaging in two ancient European rituals: giggling at people who look different, and symbolic cannibalism, as introduced by the Catholic Church. It’s all completely normal.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *