HCSA joins forces with other unions to fight BME discrimination

HCSA has expressed disappointment with a recent report on race and ethnic disparities which 'failed to address' the inequalities affecting ethnic minorities in the NHS. 

The Government-commissioned report said the UK no longer had a system 'deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities' but HCSA and other unions are disputing the findings. 

Dr Claudia Paoloni, President of HCSA, said: "I welcome the Government’s commissioning of the Race and Ethnic Disparity Report but am truly disappointed that this is yet another example of a lack of will to seriously address the  inequalities affecting Black and minority ethnic workers within the NHS.

"Inequalities that remain embedded within the institution as a lip service approach is only ever taken to address the fundamental issues underpinning the continued systemic discrimination.”

HCSA signed the letter, organised by the TUC with contributions from Unison, Unite and other unions, which was sent to the Prime Minister last week. A copy of the full letter is below.


Dear Prime Minister

We are writing to express our concern and disappointment at last week’s report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which we feel understated both the challenge and the scale of change required. 

Black and Minority Ethnic workers experience systemic inequalities across the labour market, which we consider the result of structural and institutional discrimination. 

BME workers are overrepresented in lower paid, insecure jobs and have to send 60 per cent more job applications to be invited to interview. Currently, the BME unemployment rate is running at almost double that of white workers. And BME workers in London, the region with the highest BME population, experience a 24 per cent pay gap. 

These inequalities are compounded by the direct discrimination BME people face within workplaces: around a quarter (24 per cent) had been singled out for redundancy and one in seven (15 per cent) of those that had experienced racist harassment at work said they left their job as a result. 

During the pandemic, BME workers are far more likely to be in frontline roles such as education staff, health workers and delivery drivers. This has meant that BME workers have been far more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 infection and were three times more likely to die. 

Institutional and structural racism exists in the UK, in both the labour market and wider society. We do not believe that the Commission recognised its extent and impact. And we do not consider that the report’s recommendations would make a meaningful positive difference to the working lives and careers of BME workers. 

The government previously commissioned Ruby Macgregor-Smith to provide recommendations to increase workplace equality – yet the Commission did not repeat even these recommendations, let alone go further to propose actions to tackle the profound disadvantage BME workers face in the UK labour market in 2021. 

We hoped that the report would recommend action to stamp out insecure work and make employers act to close their ethnicity pay gaps. Instead, the Commission has chosen to deny the experiences of BME workers and be complacent about the UK’s progress towards being an anti-racist society. 

The UK’s trade union movement repudiates this report. 

Ministers should instead implement in full the recommendations of previous reports, including McGregor-Smith (employment), Lammy (criminal justice), Williams (Windrush), Angiolini (deaths in custody), Parker (FTSE100 boards), and Marmot (health inequalities). 

Trade unions will continue to fight for decent wages, fair treatment and an end to exploitation for all working people – knowing this will disproportionately benefit BME workers. We will stand firm in identifying and opposing direct and indirect racism at work. There is no conflict between defending working class interests and pushing for equality for BME workers. Today’s working class is multiethnic and multifaith. We stand for all working people. 

We hope ministers will reflect on the inadequacies of the report of the Commission for Racial Disparities, recognise the insult it has offered to BME workers and pick a different path