BME workers represent 15% of the total workforce but are significantly overrepresented in two key sectors – health (24%) and transport (21%) - affected by the legislation.
The government’s anti-strikes bill is a huge step backwards for tackling racism at work, the TUC, the Equality Trust, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Runnymede Trust have warned today.
The Minimum Services Bill is due to go to the House of Lords at the end of this month. If passed, the Bill will mean that when workers lawfully vote to strike in health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning, they could be forced to attend work – and sacked if they don’t comply.
The organisations say that Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers are overrepresented in sectors affected by the legislation, and as a result, disproportionately hit by the bill.
BME workers represent 15% of the total workforce but are significantly overrepresented in two key sectors – health (24%) and transport (21%) – affected by the legislation.
The TUC adds that BME workers could be unfairly targeted for dismissal by unscrupulous employers, given the discrimination and racism in “every corner of the labour market”.
The TUC, the Equality Trust, JCWI and Runnymede Trust say that BME workers are already at the sharp end of a labour market rife with discrimination.
The organisations add that the “last thing” BME workers need is legislation which tilts the balance of power even further towards the employer and away from them.
The TUC warns attacking the right to strike will hit BME workers’ wages by undermining their ability to win a better deal at work. The government’s own advice says minimum service levels could hurt workers across the economy – hitting workers’ pay packets.
It also says minimum service levels in transport could lead to “relatively greater adverse impacts” on lower paid workers.
The TUC says this means BME workers will be hit disproportionately given they are overrepresented in lower paid jobs, on outsourced contracts and in insecure work.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “This Bill is a huge step backwards for tackling racism at work. Ministers are launching a brazen attack on the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.
“And it is Black and ethnic minority workers – who are already at the sharp end of a labour market rife with discrimination – that could be hit hardest.
“Too often BME workers are paid less for doing the same job as their white colleagues, too often they are on insecure contracts and too often they are unfairly disciplined at work.
“The last thing BME workers need is legislation which tilts the balance of power away from them and towards the employer.”
Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Director at the Equality Trust, said: “Evidence shows that BME workers face higher levels of insecure work, with half reporting workplace discrimination.
“For BME workers, being threatened with the sack for speaking up for their rights will be all too familiar.
“It will be a huge betrayal for the government to write losing your job for standing up for your rights into law.
“Instead of undermining BME workers it is clear that the government needs to look at real solutions to the UK’s inequality crisis.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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