Unite is escalating its fight against racism and division on Wear Red Day today (October 18), with two of the union’s regions holding Unity Over Division conferences aimed at tackling the far right’s message of hatred.
The conferences, which will also be held across all the union’s regions in the coming weeks and months, will discuss ways to challenge the growing far right narrative of hate and division now permeating society.
The conferences have grown out of the Unity over Division campaign launched by Unite earlier this year in response to the rise of the far right in the UK, across Europe and in many parts of the world.
It is aimed at equipping working people with the skills and knowledge to challenge the arguments of the far right and the casual racism that is becoming more prevalent in our workplaces and communities.
Unite’s West Midlands conference drew nearly 200 delegates fand was held at the West Bromich Albion football club.
A range of speakers attended including Unite assistant general secretaries Steve Turner and Howard Beckett, alongside Unite regional secretary Annemarie Kilcline Unite regional chair Asif Mohammed, and Unite Women and Equalities officer Maureen Scott-Douglas, (pictured L-R)
Unite regional officer Frank Keogh hailed today’s conference, saying it drew enthusiastic delegates from across the region.
“We raised about £200 for Wear Red Day and had some fascinating discussions about further developing our Unity over Division campaign,” he said. “We represent a large variety people from different ethnicities, genders, and religions so as trade unionists, this work is absolutely vital. We must stand up to racism in all its forms; trade unions should be leading from the front in challenging the narrative of the far right.”
Meanwhile in the South East region, scores of delegates attended the region’s own Unity Over Division conference. The day consisted of different workshops, including one on myth-busting claims made by the far right; how to have difficult conversations in the workplace; and another where delegates shared their own experiences of racism in the workplace.
Speaking from the conference, Unite Community and schools coordinator Joe Dukes told UniteLive that the event has seen a “fantastic response” so far.
He hailed the panel of speakers including Unite national officer Sarah Carpenter, Labour MP for Slough Tan Dhesi, Unite South East region chair Gordon Lean and Unite political education co-ordinator Barry Faulkner, among others. Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner also addressed the conference.
“I’m incredibly proud that our members have taken a proactive stance against the rise of the far right that’s reared its ugly head both internationally and domestically,” Dukes said. “This is what Unite is all about – being a fight-back union that tackles problems like racism head-on.”
As Unite’s South East and West Midlands regions hosted their respective conferences today, the rest of the Unite family gave their own support to Wear Red Day.
The national day of action organised by Show Racism the Red Card, an anti-racist educational charity Unite has long supported, called on participants to wear red and donate £1 to support the organisation’s training in schools and workplaces across the UK.
Unite executive council member James Mitchell, who has long been a supporter of Show Racism the Red Card, hailed both the charity and the work the union is doing to combat racism and the far right.
“Show Racism the Red Card’s work is absolutely vital because they educate our young – that’s the only way we can successfully root out racism once and for all,” he said.
“As a union we must support educational work like Show Racism the Red Card and our Unity over Division campaign because this is what we are all about – showing solidarity with our fellow working people and standing as one, united,” he said. “We won’t be segregated or separated.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey proudly wore his own red shirt – quoting legendary Liverpool FC manager and devoted socialist Bill Shankly.
He said, “I’m proud to be wearing my hero’s shirt on Wear Red Day — a day for true football fans to stand together, to put the solidarity among players and supporters on display and remind the bigoted few that hate has no place in our game.”