• Thursday, May 26, 2022

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Race report ‘extinguished any hope’ in addressing inequalities, says Unite

Police lead an injured man away after clashes between BLM protesters and far-right groups at Trafalgar Square last year in London. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

By: Sattwik Biswal

A DAY after government’s report on race and ethnic disparities was published, Unite on Wednesday (31) said it has ‘extinguished any hope in addressing rife and deep seated inequalities’.

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was ordered by prime minister Boris Johnson’s government after widespread Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last summer, triggered by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the United States.

“The report is a huge disappointment and failed to delve deeper into the inequalities that affect those from ethnic minorities in the UK which have been further highlighted by the impact of the pandemic over the last year,” Unite
national officer for equalities Harish Patel said.

“There will be real anger in these communities that, once again, the government has failed to tackle these ingrained inequalities. Unless ministers get serious about inequality, this will be a running sore that will continue to damage the social fabric of the UK and blight the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.

He also said: “This is a window-dressing report that is masquerading as a serious blueprint for the future – but fools no one.

“It is those from black and Asian backgrounds that have suffered disproportionately from Covid-19 whether they were NHS staff who succumbed to coronavirus or, more widely, in the community where many were holding down low-paid jobs meaning they could not afford to self-isolate because of the paltry levels of statutory sick pay.

“Sir Lenny Henry’s appeal to the Black community urging them to take the vaccine openly acknowledged there was a lack of trust in our institutions.

“It would be an awful failure if this report and the government’s haste to sweep these long-standing issues under the carpet led to continuing complacency on the economic and social fronts.”

Moreover, the report, which was published on Wednesday (31), said the UK was not yet a “post-racial country,” and added that references to racism in the UK being “institutional” or “structural” had become confusing, and had sometimes been used without enough evidence.

This has led to criticism from unions, charities and opposition politicians – which have accused the commission of downplaying the role of wider factors in racial inequalities.

“The report looks at these issues of inequality through rose-tinted glasses and attempts to paper over the cracks in a society where disparities and disadvantage are rife,” Patel said.

“The government should not be stoking up the culture wars setting people against each other at a time post-pandemic when we should be coming together and this report is heading towards dividing communities further.

“The report started out on a journey, but has totally failed and no way has reached its destination which should have been a concrete set of recommendations to address the inequalities in the workplace and, in society, which those from ethnic minorities experience on a daily basis.”

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