The word black is used in the political context to encompass anyone from an Asian, African, Caribbean, Chinese, etc, heritage. Black in the poltical context encompasses people who have a shared experience of racial discrimination based on colour.
The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 was enacted in the wake of the Macpherson Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.
The legislation formally recognised the presence of institutional racism in public authorities, eg, the police service and the civil service.
A key point emanating from the Macpherson Inquiry was that a ‘colour blind’ approach, ie, applying the same rules to everyone, regardless of race could fail to recognise and address the disadvantages experienced by some ethnic minorities.
This guidance is designed to help branches currently without a Black Members’ Group/ Network set one up. Groups of this nature must be accountable and there must be clear link to the Branch Executive Committee.
The fundamental objective of setting up such groups is to help us identify the key issues that affect black workers and empower black members to lead union campaigns on these issues by involving them in union activity.
Help, advice and assistance in setting up and running a campaign is available from the PCS Campaigns Department 020 7801 2820.
Functions of group/ network should include :
How to go about setting up such advisory groups is not set in stone, but the following steps have proved successful:
The first meeting of the branch black members’ group/network should elect/nominate a:
The secretary of the group or network's responsibilities will include:
Although there are no hard and fast rules about ascertaining those priorities, tried and tested ways that have resulted in success have been the use of :
Where and when and what is on the agenda will influence turn out to meetings. The timing of meetings can be particularly difficult when there are shift or part time workers. Lots of people object to smoky, noisy atmospheres – so apart from timing, think about the venue as well.
It is a common shared experience amongst many black union members that they face difficulties getting time off to attend meetings arranged during work time – even where managers have been given notice well in advance of their intention to attend meetings covered by facility time.
Where some members have experienced numerous obstacles preventing them from attending meetings, branch secretaries have
Persistent difficulties in securing time off to attend meetings covered by facility time should be reported to the branch secretary with a view to finding a way forward.
In some cases, it may not be possible to get paid release for all attendees. This should not stop you from holding these important meetings, though. Consider lunchtime events, meetings before or after work and consult those involved for the most suitable arrangements for them.
There will be occasions when it will not be possible to schedule a meeting and where possible the meeting can be conducted electronically – ie by email. However beware as there may be some members who do not have access to computer terminals so that effort needs to be made to ensure that those without access to a computer are informed of discussions and outcomes. This can be done by a newsletter.
Newsletters are good sources of information and a way of providing people who are unable to attend set meetings with a report back. Consider asking people to contribute to newsletters, especially if they have a particular expertise or knowledge about a particular subject
Be aware of major religious festivals. Try to find out what how best to accommodate members wish to attend a meeting, but are observing a religious practice/festival.
Avoid having long meetings. Every attendee should have the opportunity to contribute to a debate.
The chair is responsible for responsible for ensuring that no single person or group of people dominate the meeting, as well as adhering to the agenda. The chair is responsible for setting the protocol of the meeting and ensuring that all attendees are treated with respect.
At the end of each meeting, people must come away with a feeling of achievement. There must be clear action points to take away and agreement reached as to when a report back on progress or otherwise will be made.
Reports must be copied to the branch secretary. Remember evidence from our surveys proves that members join and get involved in unions because unions campaign on issues that are important to workers. Keep your meetings focussed on identifying and addressing workplace issues and try to restrict bureaucracy to a minimum.
At times it may be necessary to restrict meetings to a single item. Consider inviting a speaker as this can help provide the catalyst for interesting debates and providing alternative perspectives
All reasonable expenses incurred as a result of travelling to a meeting should be met from branch funds. The secretary of the black members’ group is responsible for passing on expenses to the branch secretary, chair or treasurer for payment authorisation.
Much of the above applies to black members at group level. In terms of the procedure there is a slight departure that instead of contacting the branch secretary, contact needs to be established with your national officer at PCS headquarters who will advise on the protocol for setting up a black members’ group at group/national branch level.
This factsheet is available as a hard copy from the PCS equality, health and safety department, telephone 020 7801 2683 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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