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Scottish Parliament's Equality Committee's
Taking Stock on Race Equality

UNISON Scotland Response

April 2002

UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union with over 140,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland. UNISON has Self Organised Groups elected from within our membership, with a remit to address issues of importance and to advise the union on policy areas relating to those specific groups. The UNISON Scotland Black Workers' Committee works on issues of importance to our black and minority ethnic members, including tackling race discrimination in the workplace and in all areas of society. UNISON Black Workers' Committee contributes to policy formulation in UNISON, particularly on race discrimination and race equality within UNISON, and on our approaches to external consultations.

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee's "Taking Stock Initiative" on race equality. It is good that the Committee is fulfilling one of the founding principles of the Parliament to bring decision making closer to the people, with this evidence taking activity.

Consulting on Race Equality

Since the advent of the Labour Government at Westminster in 1997, and the subsequent establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament, it has been heartening to witness a new approach to race equality issues in the UK and Scotland. The new commitment to tackling race discrimination and institutional racism, and to actively promoting race equality is very welcome.

UNISON has been involved in a range of consultations on race issues since 1997, including the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report recommendations for Scotland, the Scottish Executive's Equality Strategy and the Race Equality Advisory Forum process. It is important that trade unions and black and minority ethnic people are included in these consultations, so as their views and experiences are taken into account in policy formulation. UNISON Black Members' Committee have also appreciated the commitment of the Minister for Social Justice to enter into dialogue with trade union members. The previous Minister Jackie Baillie has addressed the STUC Black Workers' Conference on a number of occasions and answered the many and varied questions of delegates.

Clearly it is best practice to consult, investigate and debate policies prior to putting them into action, to ensure that the right policies, procedures and outcomes are achieved.

Whilst the consulting and evidence taking from the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament is most welcome, UNISON is concerned that on the very sensitive issue of race equality and race discrimination, there has been an enormous amount of consulting, investigating and debating the issues, with little evidence of delivery or real policy outcome. The Executive appears to have produced a number of consultation publications and strategy documents, where as visible movement on putting policies into action is not as clear. It is appreciated that there is a great deal of work to be done on race issues, after years of neglect during Conservative Governments of the 1980s and 1990s, however, we are anxious to see substance behind the very good intentions of the Parliament and the Executive.

UNISON is wary that this taking stock initiative may have come too early in that we have not had the opportunity to see substantial action or policy outcomes from previous consultations. Whilst we can see that the Executive is attempting to address current provision and improve facilities to ensure community integration, we believe that there has been limited progress in the implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, including the action under Public Duty Orders. Indeed the Specific Duties to be placed on public bodies through the RRA 2000 were only announced by the Scottish Executive on 12 March 2002. In addition, we believe there has been limited progress on developing cross cutting approaches to capacity building and race equality.

Race Equality Framework

UNISON is concerned at the absence of a clear framework or strategy from the Executive on race equality issues. We have acknowledged the activities and consultations conducted by the Executive and the rhetoric on race equality. However, we feel that a much more focussed approach is required, to pull all of the disparate strands of work together in one distinct framework.

Such a framework should include:

  • aims and objectives,
  • activities and actions to achieve the objectives,
  • a timetable for actions,
  • ownership of the strategy and responsibility for carrying out actions / activities, targets and progress which should be achieved within given timetables,
  • leadership for the strategy,
  • regular review and monitoring of the strategy.

Mainstreaming race equality, along with cross cutting initiatives to tackle race discrimination and promote racial equality, should be central to the framework. Leadership and ownership of the strategy on behalf of the Executive is also key to the success of a mainstream approach


Through its "Leadership" initiative, the Commission for Racial Equality has recognised the importance of having flag bearers to highlight best practice in race equality issues. UNISON believes it is essential that we see greater leadership and ownership of race equality issues from the Executive and Ministers in particular.

Through a mainstreamed approach we want Ministers to acknowledge and respond to their positions as leaders of the race equality agenda within their own departments. Rather than focussing on the Social Justice Minister as being the Minister to push the agenda forward, the Health Minister should recognise that he/she is responsible for leading on race equality issues within the health and community care remit. Likewise, the Ministers for Education, Transport, Justice and Local Government, should all be taking a lead on race issues in their own areas.

It is by identifying those with responsibility, and empowering them to act, that we will see real progress with the race equality agenda.

The community at large has seen little or no progress on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, particularly with regards to the new duties on public bodies. We would like to see more leadership in this area from the Executive, and leadership to encourage employers in public bodies to implement the RRA2000 provisions.

Mainstreaming Race Equality

UNISON welcomed the establishment of the Scottish Executive's Equality Unit and its key objectives of mainstreaming equality issues, and to ensure policies of the Executive are audited for their impact on those from minority ethnic communities, and gender, disability, age, etc..

However, we feel that race issues are still not been adequately mainstreamed within the Executive and the Scottish Parliament. If we take the Equality Unit definition of mainstreaming as "the systematic integration of an equality perspective into all aspects of the work of the Executive, involving policy development, practice, organisation, structures, and personnel at every level", UNISON believes that the Executive is not mainstreaming race to the extent that it could do. We feel that race equality issues are still being compartmentalised as separate to mainstreaming issues.

A simple example of this is the recent NHS "Fair For All" document on a strategy to ensure that everyone is entitled to fair access to health. Rather than being categorised as a "health" document on the Executive's web site, the publication was classed as "Ethnic Minorities". The fundamental point is that this is a health document, and those working or interested in the Executive's plans for health should be directed to it. Under a mainstreaming strategy where equality issues should be embraced by everyone, it should not be categorised as only a document for ethnic minorities.

UNISON believes it is essential that the Executive and Parliament mainstream effectively, rather than allowing mainstreaming to degenerate into tokenism where public commitment is given in principle, but where progress is seldom achieved in reality.

Race equality issues have to be fully integrated into all areas of work. There needs to be an equality audit of the current position, which given the extensive consultations and evidence taking, the Executive and Parliament should be aware of the base from which we are starting. Positive action strategies need to be developed more to achieve the goals of community integration, tackle discrimination and to promote race equality.

UNISON believes that the Executive has to promote training, development and awareness raising on race equality, to develop best practice tools to assist with mainstreaming race across the public sector, and in all public bodies. Partnership working is essential, we welcome the Executive and Parliament's involvement of the Commission for Racial Equality, Race Equality Councils, the STUC Black Workers Committee, and other community groups. We also need to do more to remove the barriers that prevent integration, and are thwarting the progress of minority ethnic people in the public sector, and from progressing in wider public and civic life .

Cross cutting initiatives

Much more needs to be done on positive action to develop cross cutting measures to promote race equality and tackle discrimination. The Executive is involved in a whole raft of positive initiatives, however, we would question the joined up working of them..

For example UNISON would like to see the Close the Gap campaign, which aims to tackle the gender pay gap, address the wider pay gap of minority ethnic women, and adopt positive strategies to support black and minority ethnic women in employment. There is an opportunity to ensure that race discrimination is tackled through a wide range of Executive policies, from housing, transport, health and education.

Last year the Executive spoke of a campaign, on a similar level of that to combat domestic abuse against women, which would campaign against racism in society. As far as UNISON is aware, this project is yet to take off.

Workplace Issues

Last year UNISON commissioned a comprehensive UK-wide survey by Labour Research Department, to record and analyse the impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry on employers in the public sector, published 23 July 2001. The report revealed that black and ethnic minority populations are still under-represented in the workplace. Only just over half of employers were satisfied that the ethnic composition of their workforce reflected that of the local community, but only 11% had set targets for change. UNISON concluded that action is urgently needed to tackle race inequality in the public sector.

Our survey found that although employers claimed to have equal opportunities policies these did not translate into practice. Employers did not necessarily review these policies, monitor the ethnic composition of the workforce, set timetables and fix targets to deal with the issue of under-representation both within the workforce in general and in specific grades of occupations.

UNISON's survey found that racial harassment tended to be tackled as a disciplinary issue, ignoring the fact that many black and ethnic minority workers faced abuse from members of the public. Experience from UNISON members shows that racial harassment is sadly a common occurrence. It is assumed that organisations will know how to address this issue, but unfortunately this is far from the case, and employers in all sectors have to be encouraged to improve and implement effective harassment policies, and develop training for all employees on the issue. Without real capacity building strategies, black and minority ethnic workers become easy targets for racial harassment and abuse in the workplace. Harassment policies also need to be tightened up on protecting black and minority ethnic employees from racial harassment or abuse from the users of public services

In our view, more action on implementing the RRA2000 is clearly needed to ensure that public bodies are not discriminating against black and minority ethnic employees, potential employees, or their users.

The UNISON survey revealed a surprising under-representation of black and ethnic minority workers in the public sector. Although this was a UK-wide survey, we believe that further action is needed in Scotland to encourage black and minority ethnic people to work in the public sector. The public sector should be leading the way in making sure that their services and employment practices reflect the interests and needs of the communities they serve.

Following the report findings UNISON recommended a range of actions public sector employers should be taking including

    Agreement between staff and unions on standard categorisation for monitoring.

    Employers setting targets for recruitment, promotion and training together with the timetable within which the targets should be achieved.

    Regular review of equal opportunity policies.

    Review of harassment policies to ensure they cover harassment by service users.

    Joint employer / union work on the issue of institutional racism. Joint task groups can achieve successful outcomes in terms of creating an environment that encourages diversity.

The Executive's own report ‘Fair for all' reached the same conclusions, and also highlighted the lack of real leadership on the issue of race in Scotland Health service.

Race Equality Training

In Scotland UNISON has stated that there should be a greater focus on equal opportunity training (UNISON Scotland's Manifesto on Equalities and Public Services). We believe that those who deliver services should be fully appraised of equal opportunities policies and trained to deal sensitively with all Scotland's citizens.

UNISON has found that there are difficulties with delivering integrated services with fully trained staff where services are delivered by a variety of employers, with different contractual obligations and motivations, employing people on different conditions. We believe the Scottish Executive's continued promotion of PFI and private sector involvement in the delivery of public services does not sit easily with its commitment to race equality and tackling discrimination. There needs to be a clear indication from private contractors that they are willing to embrace the provisions of the Race Relations Amendment Act, and the Executive's positive Equality Strategy and REAF strategy. Where private contractors are failing to meet their obligations as "public bodies" under the RRA2000 the Executive has to ensure action is taken against them.

Capacity Building

Capacity building is crucial if we are to fully integrate black and minority ethnic people into all aspects of Scottish social, economic and civil life. Within the health service UNISON welcomes initiatives to encourage graduates from black and minority ethnic backgrounds into the health professions. However, we would like to see these practices rolled out to all sectors and all levels within the health service.

Recent census returns have indicated that the black and minority ethnic population in Scotland is a young population, and therefore provides a pool of talent and resources for the public sector. We believe that the health service, and the public sector as a whole should be drawing on this pool, encouraging black and minority ethnic people into the services at all levels, as catering and cleaning staff, nurses, ancillary workers, not just as health professionals. And once in the public sector, individuals need to be nurtured and valued, offered training and development, so as they can see the potential for and experience career progression within the public sector.

The public sector has to address issues of race discrimination and harassment if it is going to encourage black and minority ethnic individuals to work safely and successfully within it. As noted above, UNISON promotes the implementation and enforcement of harassment policies on harassment and discrimination from service users, to protect public sector workers. We are concerned to see that the UK continues to recruit public sector workers from overseas without tackling the racist views which still pervade in UK society. The Executive's proposals for a Zero Tolerance campaign on racism would be a clear example of a cross cutting initiative which could work to tackle racism and protect public service workers.

The Scottish Refugee Council has shown that a range of untapped skills exist within the asylum seeking population in Scotland. Whilst we recognise that asylum policy rests with Westminster, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning policy is the concern of the Executive, and we would wish to see more action from the Executive to engage the skills of refugees in Scotland. Encouraging asylum seekers into work and/or training is an example of joined up government - addressing skills gaps in our economy, providing work and self sufficiency for refugees, lifting them out of poverty and helping with integration into Scottish society.


The three areas that the Equal Opportunities Committee‘s stock taking initiative is addressing are inextricably linked. It is through progress in the implementation of the RRA2000 and the development of cross-cutting approaches to capacity building and race equality that we will work towards ensuring community integration. The Executive, therefore, has to take a lead in ensuring the effective implementation of the RRA2000, together with developing cross cutting approaches to race equality, mainstreaming race equality issues in all aspects of its work.

Overall, UNISON is looking for a more focused approach to addressing race equality issues in Scotland. An approach which is systematic, measured and monitored, with clear aims and objectives, and includes all sections of the Executive to embrace all areas of life in Scotland.


For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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