Monday 28 November 2022

We must stand together against racism, fascism and attempts to divide us

In her speech to the St Andrew's Day Rally, Kate Ramsden, UNISON highlights the importance of fighting racism and inequality and calls for support for UNISON's Year of Black Workers in 2023.

Greetings from UNISON Scotland and thanks so much for inviting me to speak here today.

I’m pleased to bring solidarity from my union to this St Andrew’s day rally.

Because it is so important to be constantly vigilant in the fight against racism and fascism.

And especially now, coming out of COVID and with a cost of living crisis – which is really a cost of greed crisis - when it is all too easy to demonise and blame certain groups – like migrant workers, benefits claimants, disabled people, older people and single parents.

The last couple of years have presented significant challenges for all workers.

COVID impacted on both our personal and professional lives, with many of us losing colleagues and loved ones whilst struggling to deliver services.

 All workers have experienced below inflation pay rises while prices soared. Public services continue to be underfunded and understaffed.

 Our Black colleagues have faced all of these challenges but also have to fight racism on a daily basis.

 Scotland is not immune to that sadly. But it is not just the overt racism that blights lives.

 Over the last two years, there has been a disproportionate impact on Black workers and communities during the pandemic.

 Black workers were more likely to contract the virus and more likely to die from it.

 Research carried out by UNISON highlighted that there was a widespread failure of employers to conduct individual and specific risk assessments. It also highlighted problems with the supply of appropriate safety kit.

 However, the workplace challenges faced by Black workers go beyond the impact of COVID.

 Black workers are more likely to be underemployed, more likely to be in insecure work, overrepresented on zero-hours contracts and in low paid jobs making them more vulnerable to the cost of living crisis. They also face an ethnicity pay gap.

 These a just a few examples of how institutional racism plays out on a daily basis.

 The Sheku Bayoh case shows how racism is also endemic in our institutions like police and justice.

 That is why UNISON has designated 2023 as the Year of Black Workers.

 This follows on from the success of the Year of Disabled Workers in highlighting inequalities faced by disabled workers in the workforce and in society and demanding action to address these.

 We hope you will support us in this.

Because we know that racism and fascism raise their ugly heads when poverty increases and more and more of us struggle to make ends meet.

This is perpetuated by a Tory government intent on demonising migrant workers with racist immigration policies

Trying to set worker against worker to hide their own failings in dealing with a broken economy.

An economy that they have broken through years of austerity.

We are still the sixth richest country in the world. There is no need for so many of our children to be growing up in poverty

There is no need for so many of our citizens to be dependent on foodbanks to eat – to face terrible choices between starving or freezing.

There is no need for parents to have to go without to make sure their children don’t go hungry.

Giving us all decent pay rises is not only good for workers, it’s essential for the economy.

And taking money out of the pockets – or rather offshore accounts - of the obscenely wealthy – money they will never even miss – is not only morally correct, it makes economic sense.

Because we are the people who spend in our local shops and businesses – who keep local economies afloat and support local communities – the rich don’t.

So never be taken in by the argument that increased wages or improved benefits are unaffordable.

The reality is that they are not only affordable if everyone pays their fair share, they are essential to economic growth. Which is what the Tories say they want!

We send solidarity to all our comrades in struggle across the different trade unions, taking strike action for better wages and often to ensure public protection.

Not only do these workers deserve a wage rise after years of pay cuts, the economy needs it.

So solidarity once again to all of you here today.

Please keep up the good fight against racism, fascism and for equality and social justice for all. We must never take our eye off the ball.