UNISON is proud to support and to have, in a small way, assisted the Black Lives Matter movement here in Coventry.
The horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the reality of police brutality in both the US and UK and the continued hostility of some politicians, the far-right and sections of the media have demonstrated that the scourge of racism remains deeply engrained in our society and that a lot remains to be achieved.
UNISON has supported, participated in, and spoken at the inspiring protests here Coventry. We stand in solidarity with them. We are keenly aware that black people have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19.
Locally we have witnessed the death of Darren Cumberbatch who died after police restrained him. As reported by the Coventry Telegraph ‘An inquest jury ruled last June that the actions of police officers – including baton strikes, other physical strikes, multiple punches, stamps, tasers, and handcuffs – were a contributing factor to his death’, yet only last week, a whole year later, did any review findings get released.
We believe that there should be no complacency. It is great that Coventry City Council has made some strong statements in support of Black Lives Matter and that Council staff have been invited to include a positive statement on email signatures for example. Yet huge issues must be addressed. It is still too often the case that colleagues who are not white British origin end up in the lower-paid and/or temporary jobs, miss out on promotion, and are the first to be selected for redundancy or redeployment. This is institutional racism. It has not been resolved. It must stop.
In our Trade Unions, too few non-white British origin people are stewards or officers, many do not join in the first place and many fundamental issues are yet to be addressed. This can and must change. In the US trade unionists organised solidarity with protests and built the mass campaign for Black Lives Matter. The fight against racism is a fight for every trade union activist and member, not a select few.
Equality is a high priority in our negotiating and campaigning work. People have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work, to do their job to the best of their ability, free from discrimination and harassment.
In these challenging times for all, we can take inspiration and hope from the growth of a new generation of anti-racist fighters who are now demanding action, not words or more enquiries.
As trade unionists, we also believe that a fight against racism will create more energy and enthusiasm for a fight against attempts to cut jobs and services to pay for the post COVID-19 economic crisis. Racism in our society comes from the top. Just look at the grim track record of Boris Johnson. Racism is engrained deeply in a history of rapacious greed by those who seek to govern us. We can unite to build solidarity between black and white people and build a better future for us all.
For more info on local campaigns visit Stand up to Racism Coventry on Facebook
See the Coventry City UNISON statement on our website Statement