UCU is proud to be involved in the work of the Black Lives Matter group in the college. We urge all members to support the initiatives and activities of the BLM movement, both locally and nationally. The two BLM reps in the college are Wendy Yarde and Lorraine Neil. Please contact them for further information of forthcoming events and meetings.
Why we need to continue to build an anti-racist workplace at WKC
Racism has a cumulative impact on the well-being of black people. The sinews which connect systemic brutality with the daily, lived experience of the
discrimination faced by our black members are evident throughout UCU’s Witness
It is more important than ever for our branches to consider how we can challenge racism at all levels and work to create anti-racist environments. UCU has been active and played a critical role in giving a voice to black members nationally, particularly since the murder of George Floyd. But, there is still much more that we can do as a union.
What can branches do to challenge racism and create an antiracist workplace?.
Challenge management practices: UCU branches should continue to expose and oppose all practices and decisions that impact negatively and disproportionately on our black members. This can include.management workplace bullying, discriminatory application of college disciplinary procedures, institutional barriers to career progression of BAME staff, the failure to deliver timely Equality Impact Assessments over site closures, facility closures, redundancies and college restructures, the greater vulnerability of BAME staff to Covid-19, failure to support EDI processes and procedures at an institutional level.
Decolonise the workplace and the curriculum: Now is the time to change a college and curriculum wherever the irresolvable tensions arising from the UK’s imperial histories are still evident. If you find that WKC is trapped between an imperial (not so) past and a corporatist present, the UCU Decolonising Education diagnostic tool may prove useful in identifying areas to challenge and seek change: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9205/decolonisingeducation-diagnostics/pdf/Day_of_Action_-_Diagnostic.pdf
Take time to reflect: It’s important to recognise that unions are not immune to
racism and we need to be vigilant in challenging it within our own ranks as well as in
the workplace. WKC branches should use this opportunity to reflect on our own activity,
tackle bias at all levels and think about how to better engage and support black staff
and students. Consider, is there more that UCU can do to directly involve more black staff in the union and give visibility to their concerns? Is our union actively embedding issues linked to racial inequality in our bargaining approaches?
Start a conversation: It may be the case that talking about race specifically is
something many white members find challenging, but branches and members are urged to begin or continue to have conversations about race and racism.
Educate ourselves: Educating ourselves and challenging our own preconceptions about race is an important step in creating an anti-racist environment. It’s important to
ensure black voices are heard, but the burden of learning about racism should not fall on black people. There are a number of resources which may be useful to start
this process here: https://lectureinprogress.com/journal/resources-forsupporting-black-lives-matter-movement
Create a safe space: The last few months may have be a traumatic time for many of our black colleagues. UCU needs to consider what can be done to ensure black colleagues have a safe space to connect with each other and share experiences and concerns.
Encourage allyship: Branches and members may also wish to consider how they can become more effective allies to black staff. A guide to this can be found here
‘A marginalized individual cannot easily cast away the weight of their identity
shaped through oppression on a whim. They must carry that weight every single
day, for better or for worse. An ally understands that this is a weight that they,
too, must be willing to carry and never put down.’
Introduction from the Guide to Allyship
Build connections: We should develop joint campaigns and shared goals to advance anti-racist work within WKC locally and the CCC Group as a whole. Pressuring management to set up a WKC NUS branch, and working alongside the local BLM group and other community-based organisations would be a good start. NUS activists and community groups may be at the sharp end of the protests. UCU branches will want to consider the type of support that could be offered whilst building a broader anti-racist coalition to effect change in the college and the wider community. We should be prepared to listen to different perspectives and experiences.
The NUS national position can be found here:
Protect black members’ mental health: Whilst the recent attention and desire for
change in regard to racism is welcome, UCU members must be mindful of the potential impact on the mental health of our black colleagues. The lived experiences of black workers, as highlighted in UCU’s series of ‘Witness’ films and written testimonials discussing the subtleties and microaggressions of racism, are only now being recognised as a daily reality and not a ‘chip on black people’s shoulders’. There are a number of mental health services specifically addressing issues facing black people, including:
o Black Minds Matter (https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/)
o The Black, African and Asian Therapy
o Black Thrive (https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/)
o MIND (https://www.mind.org.uk)
Useful links and further information
You can find a number of resources for the branch on the UCU Week of Action Against
Workplace Racism page https://www.ucu.org.uk/action-against-workplace-racism
UCU’s statement in solidarity with protests following the death of George Floyd can be
found on UCU’s Equality webpage: http://www.ucu.org.uk/equality
UCU is also affiliated to a number of anti-racist organisations nationally, to which our
branch may also be able to affiliate locally:
The United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a coalition of those affected by
deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody, and supports others in similar
Hope not Hate was founded in 2004 to provide a positive antidote to the politics of
Stand Up to Racism is broad organisation that brings people together to build solidarity with refugees and confront racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism: