ASLEF at TUC Black Workers Conference 2019

15 April 2019

ASLEF sent a delegation of 5 members to the TUC annual Black Workers Conference in London at the beginning of April: Trevor Robinson, District 8 and BAME Representative Committee Secretary; Floyd Doyle, District 5 and BAME Representative Committee Chair; Aksir Ali, District 4 BAME Representative Committee Rep; Aaron Clapp, District 6 BAME Representative Committee Rep, and Alan Richardson, District 8.

ASLEF BAME Representative Commmittee Chair Floyd Doyle was re-elected to the TUC Race Relations Committee.


The conference sees BAME trade unionists from across the country come together to debate issues facing BAME workers in all industries and had an interesting programme of speakers and debate.


Conference was opened by the Chair Sajid Shaikh and TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak, who discussed the Conservative government’s hostile environment policies on immigration, and called for solidarity in fighting the far right on our streets, in our workplace and online. His call reminded us that unions are the true champions of the working class, regardless of race or background, and that unity is our strength.


Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers


At this conference last year, ASLEF’s motion was in support of Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers, who are among the most marginalised communities within society. Our motion called for a speaker to be invited to address the 2019 Black Workers Conference to enable trade unionists to be fully informed about the discrimination which affect this community. The motion was passed in 2018 and this year we were proud to welcome Phien O’Reactigan, Chair of the Traveller Coalition, to speak on this issue.


Phien explained how the Home Secretary had told members of the Traveller community to buy land if they wished to live on it, but when they bought it were told they couldn’t reside there and were made homeless. He told us how, that very morning, he had been evicted from a lay-by. Phien reminded us that we are all immigrants – and all in fact descended from African travellers – so it’s everyone’s responsibility to stand up for all communities and their rights.




Aksir Ali, District 4, spoke in the debate on the Windrush scandal which was one of the most emotional of the conference. Speakers told their personal stories about family members who’d answered the call from Britain to come from across the Commonwealth to work and to fight and die in war alongside British soldiers. Everyone in the room was saddened by what has happened recently, seeing people who were born in this country arrested in the night and put on planes to a country their parents left 50 years ago. It’s concerning to all of us that the UK’s immigration policies are seeing incidents like this.


ASLEF Motion – Young BAME Workers


ASLEF’s motion to the conference was in support of young BAME workers. Young people and BAME people are the least well represented groups in the trade union movement, and only a very small number of young members are recorded as attending the TUC Black Workers Conference.


First-time delegate Aaron Clapp, District 6, moved our motion and we were pleased to have support from RMT, Unison, GMB, UCU and Unite delegations.


Other Issues


Other speakers included MEP Claude Moraes, member of the European Parliament for London, who spoke about Europe’s populist movement and the fight to raise awareness of the rise of the racist far right across European movements, and Nazek Ramadan, Director of Migrant Voice.

Delegates from unions across all industries spoke in debates including on unconscious bias, diversity in theatre and the arts, and attended workshops on mobilising against the far-right, campaigning against the Immigration Bill and automation and casualisation.



Ending Discrimination in State Reciprocal Pension Arrangements


The motion passed by conference and chosen to go forward to TUC Congress in September was moved by Unison, and regarding state pension inequality.


The full text of the motion is below:

Conference is concerned that Black workers face discrimination in the labour market, due to disadvantage in getting decent and well-paid jobs, destitution in retirement caused by low pay, an ethnic and racial pay gap and lack of access to good occupational pensions.


Annual increase in state pension should not be based on the country where a British person resides when they retire but, on the fact, that they have paid National Insurance contributions to the British State,


The Reciprocal Pension Arrangements impact disproportionately against people who are Black retiring and from predominantly Commonwealth countries.


Citizens of 30 European Economic Area (EEA) countries, like Gibraltar and Switzerland will keep their entitlement and receive state pension increase every year. If you live in any of the 47 Commonwealth countries (except Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica and Mauritius) your pension is frozen at the rate and date of your retirement if you live outside of the EU or EEA countries.


Conference calls on the TUC Race Committee to:

i) Work with TU affiliates to raise awareness of this issue

ii) Lobby the government to end this discriminatory application of the state pensions increases between people choosing to retire in EU, EEA and Commonwealth countries.




Full text of ASLEF’s motion on young BAME workers:


Conference commends the TUC for making 2019 year of the young worker and for undertaking initiatives to increase the number of young trade unionists.


Conference acknowledges just 4% of union members are aged 25 and under, further BAME workers only make up 9% of trade union membership, such low figures make for a difficult combination when trying to engage with young BAME trade unionists.


Conference notes this trend is reflected in the delegates at the TUC Black Workers Conference. Monitoring data shows that only 2.5% of respondents were aged 26 or under.


Steps must be taken to engage with young BAME members to encourage them to take active parts in TUC structures, particularly attending the Black Workers Conference.


Conference therefore calls on the Race Relations Committee to –

  • Actively encourage affiliates, where possible, to include a young member in their delegations to Black Workers Conference.
  • Meet with the TUC Young Workers Committee to look at ways of attracting more young BAME union members to attend the TUC Black Workers Conference and how this can be promoted within respective networks. 
  • Hold a fringe meeting at the 2020 TUC Black Workers Conference for young BAME delegates to discuss issues pertinent to them. 


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