The annual TUC Black Workers Conference took place at Congress House in London on 17, 18 and 19 April. As one would expect with a general election looming, reflection on the last five years of this coalition government’s performance was the main focus for debate. With the theme of ‘fighting for decent jobs, decent hours and decent pay’ conference expressed its outrage at government cuts and policies which have more harshly affected minority groups.
Frances O’ Grady’s opening address asked how far equality has actually progressed when unarmed black men are shot dead in the US, migrants drown in the Mediterranean and we see the resurgence of European Neo-Nazism, with Islam’s eradication from Europe this time its focus. The prospect of UKIP success on 7 May is placed into context when we learn that one of their candidates is a former National Front member, their party chair is recorded making overtly racist comments whilst another member tweets his distaste at a picture showing a gathering at a mosque. The ‘mosque’ turned out to be Westminster Cathedral. The irony that it was the Neo-Byzantiane design of the Cathedral combining Catholic and Islamic traditions which confused this particular historian, is perhaps lost on him.
The government ‘selling the family silver’ by destroying our valuable public services was highlighted through the Napo moved by Ikki Bhogal of West Yorkshire Branch branch. Ikki spoke about the need to eradicate Inequality within the criminal justice system; an inequality which has now been exacerbated by the TR agenda and contextualised by the continuing challenge of ‘Sus’ laws with the new dimension of police harassment of Muslim youths as highlighted by the Young Review. All of this in the 50th anniversary year of the first Race Relations Act which the coalition celebrates by seeking to dismantle much of this hard fought equality legislation.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation supported the plan to end zero hours contracts by demonstrating the disproportionate impact of poverty on BAME communities made worse by societal inequalities which reveal that even improved education does not change the uneven playing field.
With motions addressing reports of how young children in schools are being harassed for exploring their teenage boundaries and identity through misuse of the governments anti-terror legislation, when schools and educational institutions feel like a police state we know how much work is still needed!
Urfan Amar, Thames Valley Banch.