Angela Montgomery, Assistant General Secretary, reports on the TUC Black Workers Conference 2023

The Conference was the first in-person event since Covid and there was a great buzz across the three days, with many new delegates attending for the first time.

A number of motions put to the Conference focused on race discrimination in the workplace and the health inequalities that black workers face, despite making up a large percentage of the workforce in the NHS.

The POA delegation enjoyed the range of debates and learned much from the experience of meeting other trade unionists and taking part in a range of workshops and fringe meetings.

The ending of the hostile environment and the impact of this on the everyday lives of black people was debated, as was the significant contribution to this environment by media reporting of immigration and asylum.

In this, the 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation, there was a debate about how the generations of those who came to work in the UK have been treated by the government and how this has impacted upon black trade unionists.

The TUC is lobbying for safe routes to come to the UK to stop the increasing loss of life taking place as a result of a refusal to do so, and which is being exploited by criminal gangs.

The POA motion 'Trade Unions fighting for Racial Justice in the Workplace' was passed overwhelmingly.

A number of delegates from other trade unions also supported the motion that the TUC should develop training for experienced reps in branches to support black members to fight racial discrimination in the workplace. Such training would give reps the knowledge, understanding and confidence to challenge employers through an employer’s internal processes up to and including using the tribunals and courts. It would achieve justice not just for the individual member but also for those workers behind them. The development of this training is expected to follow the development and rollout of TUC training to deal with sexual harassment and will provide the skills that trade union activists need to effectively challenge the illegal behaviour of any employer.

The POA requested that this be developed within the next 12 months to make sure focus and momentum is maintained in delivering equality for all workers.

The POA is committed to ensuring that all reps are confident to represent black members and challenge any employer, whether public or private, who discriminates against any POA member; it acknowledges that this is a long and difficult journey for all our members. The POA believes that education for all members is the way to achieve this.

Anyone interested in this work should contact Deputy General Secretary Joe Simpson, who has responsibility for Equality. l

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.