‘Walkout’ by black members at UCU event

A University and College Union event saw ‘an outburst and walkout’ by black members in protest at the union’s alleged failure to tackle race issues

November 19, 2014

The UCU’s annual equality conference took place from 13 to 15 November in Manchester.

A statement released by Jim Thakoordin, who describes himself as the union’s longest-serving black member, said there was “an outburst and walkout at the beginning of the conference by 75 per cent of black delegates present” on 14 November.

The former college principal said he was refused permission to speak about a statement released under the name of “black members of UCU” and distributed at the conference.

The statement says that there are “nearly 11,000 Black members within the UCU representing over 10 per cent of the union membership and contributing around £1 million towards the UCU annually”.

But the statement accuses the union of having “ignored various reports, petitions, letters and representations” from the Black Members’ Standing Committee. There is “no trust or confidence in the UCU’s commitment towards fighting racism at the workplace and eradicating institutional racism from its structures and services”, it added.

The statement demands “that the UCU and NEC leadership take race issues seriously, implement ALL Congress motions; train, use and support Black caseworkers; set up Regional Black Members’ Networks; ensure that Black members are represented at least proportionately within all the UCU structures; treat the BMSC decisions and advice seriously; put into practice its anti-racist strategies and policies; challenge workplace institutions to end the workplace cycle of discrimination and let it be known that the UCU is committed to eradicating racial discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation at work and within the UCU”.

According to Mr Thakoordin “conference centre staff and security were called” after the chair refused him permission to speak. “Formal proceedings were suspended while some black members were removed from the hall,” he said.

He continued: “The majority of black members remaining in the hall walked out in solidarity and as a protest against the chair’s ruling that restricted any opportunity to speak on the issues highlighted in their paper. They stayed out of the conference hall in protest during the Secretary General Sally Hunt’s address, returning to the hall for the keynote address and the rest of the conference.”

A UCU spokesman said: “UCU doesn’t comment on internal events. We strongly defend our record in standing up for all our members, including highlighting the continuing discrimination many black members face in the workplace.”

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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