Speaking to ADM in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said:
“As a Union we have been actively involved in many, if not all, of the key anti-racist struggles that have defined UK race relations over the last few decades. We are rightly proud of our record and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who continue the struggle against racism and prejudice today.
“Never has that struggle been more necessary or more urgent. Many workplaces and communities have witnessed a sharp and alarming rise in racism and intolerance in the last twelve months. This rise has come about for a number of reasons, and some of the language that was used in the EU referendum.
“How you voted in the referendum isn't the issue here, none of us made our choice because we wanted to see an increase in racism and intolerance. We were entitled to expect our politicians and our media to conduct the debate about EU membership in a responsible, fair, and even-handed way. This is not what always happens, with some politicians and sections of the press deliberately whipped up prejudice and division.
“Our aim is to bring people together, and treat people equally irrespective of race, sexuality or gender. Unfortunately some people used the referendum as a chance to vent deep-seated hatred of others.
In the two weeks immediately after the Brexit vote there were nearly 3,000 hate crime incidents reported to police. The vast majority of them driven by hatred of a person's actual or perceived race or religion.
“In a decent society, we have a moral responsibility to be respectful to each other. Hate crime may have reduced since those days immediately following the referendum result but it has by no means gone away, it is still higher than it was twelve months ago.
“It is far easier to unleash the forces of hate and division, than it is to stop them, but we must try. Trade unions along with the rest of civil society have a serious and urgent job of work to do going forwards: To defend their members when they face racism at work; to forge alliances with other groups speaking out against intolerance; to train and support our reps to feel confident dealing with these issues, and to give space to members affected by racism.”
“Usdaw's ‘No Room for Racism’ campaign was developed in response to a growing demand from reps who wanted to run workplace anti-racist campaigns. Let us now take that message back to our workplaces and to our communities.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fourth biggest trade union with nearly 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion