Equalities news

Black | 24.07.2014

TUC Black workers conference

Su Akram, from HMYOI Lancaster Farms reports on this year's TUC BLack Workers' Conference which considered two main themes; confronting racial descrimination and building stronger unions.

Chaired by Maureen Loxley (USDAW) the conference opened with a two minute silence in memory of the late Tony Benn and Bob Crowe.

Delegates for the POA were:

  • Su Akram;
  • Helen Ffrench;
  • Terry Fullerton;
  • Teresa Hill;
  • Jackie Marshall;
  • Chris Muzavazi; and
  • Jaswinder Singh Nagra.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary addressed the conference, with emphasis on stopping greed at the top and she pointed out that race discrimination claims had fallen by 57 percent since tribunal fees were brought in.

As Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another for the colour of the skin, or his background, or his religion.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

Mark Hammond, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission EHRC, spoke about fairness, dignity, respect for everyone, a new strategic plan review, access to justice, how fair is Britain and about promoting and enforcing equality.

Conference motions

  • Death in custody (Police);
  • Death in custody (psychiatric detention);
  • Immigration Bill;
  • Discrimination in recruitment and promotion;
  • Extended leave; and
  • Improving black workers’ working life.

Death in custody (psychiatric detention) motion brought by NUJ:

Conference notes that despite 135 black and ethnic minority deaths in custody since 1990 it was only on 2 December 2012 that the House of Commons held the fi rst parliamentary debate on this subject. Conference notes that although African-Caribbean’s descendants account for three percent of the UK population, they make up 15 percent of the prison population and 20 percent of deaths in custody.

Conference also believes that the lack of independent investigations of deaths in psychiatric detention and the challenges faced by families seeking funding for specialist legal representation at inquests amounts to serious inequality in the inquest system. This is particularly unfair as at all inquests, the detention institutions are legally represented by experienced lawyers at unlimited public expense. Conference believes this substantial inequality may lead to a denial of justice for bereaved families.

Conference instructs the TUC Black Workers’ Committee to support and publicise the petition set out by Black Mental Health UK which calls for:

  1. Independent judicial inquiries into all preventable deaths in psychiatric settings and an end to deaths in custody;
  2. A government commitment to outlaw use of control and restraint in mental health settings; and
  3. An independent public inquiry into black deaths in custody.

POA response

Representing the POA Union, we spoke to the motion, agreeing with the bulk of it apart from paragraph 2 − we opposed this motion on that basis. Su Akram explained to conference that control and restraint was the only means that our members had to protect the patients/ prisoners and themselves from harm. Our members working in special secure hospitals have to deal with the most disturbed and dangerous people in the country.

Stephen Lawrence

The Conference hall fell silent as Neville Lawrence; father of the late Stephen Lawrence made a moving speech about the despicable behaviour of the police who put undercover officers in the activist group that campaigned for justice over the killing of Stephen. He went on to speak of his famous son, famous for all the wrong reasons.


There were four workshops to attend;

  • Black workers and cuts;
  • Death in custody;
  • Migration and immigration; and
  • Charter for anti-racist education.

Having opposed death in custody motion we felt that this was the workshop more applicable to our members. It was chair by Zita Houlbourn PCS and Jim Thakoordin UCU. Stephanie Patterson and Marcie Rigg were guest speakers. They both spoke with great emotion, separating fact from fiction about each of their brothers’ death in custody (Sean Rigg and Leon Patterson) and the struggle they’ve gone through with the IPCC to re-open their cases and their financial hardship as no legal aid is available.

They asked us to go back to our unions to agree a strategy to support.

The United Friends and Families Campaign (UFFC) is a coalition of campaigns undertaken by the friends and families of people who have died in police custody, prison, or psychiatric hospitals and have not yet received justice.

Carol Duggan also spoke about Mark Duggan, her late nephew, who was shot and killed by police, and the subsequent inquest verdict of lawful killing. Carol believes that there was a cover up and the IPPCC was corrupt and that this is all part of an ethnic cleansing to dilute the strength of the black community in Tottenham.

The result of the ballot for motion chosen to go to the TUC congress was the Immigration Bill.