Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland spoke passionately at Congress today (September 14) in a debate about the unequal impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on ethnic minorities, working class people, women and other groups.
“These are difficult, demanding, even devastating times. Times of great sadness, fear, passion and anger,” she said in her speech.
Holland said that in her role as assistant general secretary covering equalities as well as the food and transport sector, she “knows the time for measuring and reporting has long gone”.
“We’ve done that,” she said. “Now is the time we must have action for equality. Action on safety, jobs and pay, dignity and security – to ensure everyone is protected. No one left out. No one left behind.”
Holland called for ‘Action for Equality’ which would entail both a risk assessment and equality impact assessment for all employers to help stem the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black, ethnic and Asian minority (BAEM) people.
Such new rules would ensure that, for example, women have safe personal protective equipment that fits and protects them; that disabled workers and pregnant women are not being targeted for redundancy; and that LGBT+ workers are not being subjected to bullying and harassment, or isolated from support.
Holland also called for “new rights not just to measure the pay gap faced by women, Black & Asian ethnic minority workers and disabled workers, but a mandatory requirement to take action on the underlying reasons for the pay gaps. Tough on the pay gap, tough on the causes of the pay gap”.
She went on to call for the end of second-class status for union equality reps.
Finally, she highlighted the need for Part 1 of the Equality Act to be enacted on socioeconomic inequalities, so that no one faces discrimination because of their class.
“No worker should be faced with the impossible choice between caring for their family and keeping their job; or between safety and having enough money to survive,” she said. “Anyone facing domestic violence and abuse, or mental health pressures, must have somewhere to turn.
“The hostile environment facing migrant workers must end, and the migrant domestic workers visa be restored.”
“These changes are not only long overdue, without them, the underlying inequalities exposed so starkly by Covid-19, will continue and deepen,” she concluded. “We cannot let this happen. 2020 – now – it’s time for equality.”
By Hajera Blagg