REPORT OF THE NASUWT BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC MEMBERS

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REPORT OF THE NASUWT BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC MEMBERS Powered By Docstoc
					   REPORT OF THE NASUWT BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC
MEMBERS’ CONSULTATION CONFERENCE HELD ON SATURDAY 11
                   NOVEMBER 2006

1. The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Members Consultation Conference is part of
   NASUWT’s Annual Programme of consultation conferences for under-represented
   members. This is the fourth one for BME members, and was attended by over 100
   delegates. It had the theme ‘NASUWT: Working Against Racism’.

WELCOME TO THE DAY
2. Sue Rogers (NASUWT National Treasurer) welcomed delegates saying that she was
   delighted to see so many members making this the biggest NASUWT BME Consultation
   Conference so far. Dave Wilkinson (Chair of the Black and Minority Ethnic Members’
   Advisory Committee) opened the Conference with an overview of current social and
   political issues and the implications of the war in Iraq on the lives of Black and Minority
   Ethnic (BME) communities at home and abroad. Dave also touched upon the recent
   acquittal of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett on charges of inciting racial hatred, and the rise
   in Islamophobia. Dave argued that it was for these reasons that it is crucial for BME
   members to become actively involved in the trade union movement.

PAY AND CONDITIONS FOR BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC TEACHERS
3. Chris Keates (General Secretary of NASUWT) welcomed delegates to the Conference
   saying that the Consultation Conferences were a critical part of the Union’s policy
   development process and that she was pleased that they were proving to be such
   popular and highly successful events.

4. Chris said that the Union’s focus on organising is driving forward its work to ensure that
   the Union’s democratic structure is inclusive and representative of the wider membership.
   A network of over 100 Local Association Equality Officers build on this work at local level
   by promoting equality and seeking to improve participation and representation from all
   sections of the membership. NASUWT Training Courses for BME activists have seen
   increasing attendance and the Union’s Learning Project is providing opportunities for
   professional development targeted at BME and other underrepresented groups.

5. Chris gave an overview of the pay and conditions issues NASUWT is currently
   addressing and its impact on BME members, including:
    the National Agreement and the seven contractual changes introduced between 2003
      and 2005;
    revisions to the pay structure enabling classroom teachers to aspire to higher salaries
      without having to take on additional responsibilities which often took them away from
      teaching;
    revised staffing structures leading to the introduction of the new teaching and learning
      responsibility payments and the Excellent Teachers Scheme;
    the introduction of the new teacher professionalism agenda;
    performance management which will bring clarity and transparency to the process for
      assessing the overall performance of a teacher and a headteacher; and
    NASUWT’s continuing work to embed equality issues within all Union and
      Government education policies.

6. Chris ended by setting out some of the challenges facing the Union, including:
    moving schools from contract compliance to sustainability including bringing
      increased downward pressure on working hours and making the aspiration that
      teachers rarely cover a reality in all schools;
      supporting members in continuing to raise standards and secure parity in pay and
       conditions of service;
      continuing work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to improve pay and
       conditions of service;
      campaigning to protect the interests of overseas trained teachers and progressing
       work to combat racial harassment in schools and colleges.

7. Chris then took questions from the audience, with delegates raising a wide range of
   issues including the acute problems faced by overseas trained teachers, issues
   surrounding racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and the difficulties
   faced by BME teachers in career progression.

PANEL DISCUSSION
8. The panel discussion gave participants at the Conference the opportunity to hear from
   three experts involved in the authorship and research of the TUC and Working Lives
   Research Institute publication ‘Working Against Racism: The Role of Trade Unions in
   Britain’.

9. Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Race Research Fellow at the Working Lives Research Institute, gave
   an introduction to the research that the ‘Working Against Racism’ publication was drawn
   from. The research had found that Black and Minority Ethnic workers continued to face
   unequal and discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Very few BME employees were in
   senior positions. BME workers reported that verbal abuse was a daily occurrence,
   particularly those who worked in retail. The research also found that while there was a
   strong commitment to tackling racism by trade unions at national level, the picture was
   very different at regional level. Black trade unionists reported alienation from trade unions
   at the local branch level, and felt that the issues of racism and discrimination faced by
   BME workers were not acknowledged. The recommendations of the report included:
    greater documentation of the number of Black trade union activists and officials;
    a clear commitment at all levels of trade unions to tackling racism;
    the importance of black self-organisation.

10. Roger McKenzie, Regional Secretary of Midlands TUC identified the challenges facing
    Black and Minority Ethnic people in the workplace, and outlined the possible responses.
    Roger highlighted the fact that BME workers faced discrimination even before entering
    the workplace, being three times more likely to be unemployed. Once in the workplace,
    they often faced discrimination in pay, conditions of service and promotion and
    progression. He went on to say that when BME workers made positive and constructive
    attempts to progress within the workplace, they are continually held back and urged to be
    patient. Black people had already shown a remarkable amount of patience in waiting for
    things to change. Warning against relying on the law in combating discrimination, Roger
    said that the question that now presented itself to black workers was what they were
    going to do about it as individuals and as a group. Pointing to the history of Black people
    within the trade union movement, Roger argued that collective organisation and collective
    action was crucial and said that the trade union movement gave Black workers a great
    vehicle to organise. Whilst Black workers should welcome all colleagues who want to
    sign up against racism, they should also organise themselves as Black workers, because
    ‘those who feel it, know it’. Urging Black workers to unite together to ensure that their
    collective voices were heard, he ended by saying that ‘We are the workers who have a
    particular experience and it is an experience that deserves to be heard’.

11. Wilf Sullivan, TUC Race Equality Officer, addressed the Conference regarding current
    trends in public discourse on racism with regard to asylum seekers, migrant workers and
    the Muslim community, as well as the importance of collective bargaining in delivering
    equality. Wilf spoke of worrying trends within the public discourse, with asylum seekers
    effectively turned into second class citizens, and where the need for migrant workers is
   being acknowledged, but with fewer rights than other workers. Wilf also highlighted the
   vulnerability of migrant workers to being allowed to stay only as guest workers and then
   deported following a short time. Trade unions had a crucial role to play in the fight against
   racism in the workplace. Wilf said that the TUC had developed a charter for trade unions
   as a tool for driving forward change in the workplace. He emphasised the crucial role
   played by BME workers in tackling discrimination, as only those who know what it is like
   to experience discrimination can create the solutions to resolve it. Racism has been seen
   as an individual problem because there has been a lack of collective bargaining around
   race issues. It was important for trade unions not to rely on employment tribunals to
   resolve issues of discrimination, but to make employers understand that if they
   discriminated against members on the basis of the colour of their skin, then there would
   be consequences. Wilf ended by saying that if the only ambition the trade union
   movement had was to win some compensation for someone then we are not doing our
   job properly.

12. Roger McKenzie, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Wilf Sullivan and Dave Wilkinson, Chair of the
    BME Advisory Committee, then took questions from participants on issues of identity, the
    problems of racist abuse and discrimination faced in the workplace, the isolation
    frequently felt by those who suffered from discrimination, and how best to organise
    collectively on issues of racism and discrimination.

WORKSHOPS
13. During the afternoon sessions participants at the Consultation Conference attended
    workshops on:
     the use of collective bargaining to tackle racism, facilitated by Dave Wilkinson, Chair,
       BME Members Advisory Committee, and Alan Homes, Vice-Chair;
     campaigning against the far-right, facilitated by Mike Wongsam of ‘Unite Against
       Fascism’;
     promoting greater involvement by BME workers in trade unions, facilitated by
       members of the NASUWT BME Members’ Advisory Committee.

   Issues arising from the workshops included:
    lack of action against the racist abuse and graffiti perpetrated by pupils;
    institutional racism against Overseas Trained Teachers and the need for this issue to
       be made a national bargaining priority;
    need to work on building local community relations in order to combat the rise of the
       BNP and other far-right groups;
    Local Associations should affiliate to Unite Against Fascism;
    importance for more activities and meeting structures for BME members at local and
       national level;
    need for BME members to make links with one another so that they could collectively
       organise;
    BME members should take up Union roles within their schools and Local
       Associations;
    need for Local Associations to take the issue of racism and discrimination more
       seriously;
    the need for BME members to be fully represented on the leadership structure;
    the issue of access for training and CPD for BME teachers.

				
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