The blog of the 'There is a Better Way' campaign by STUC staff about policy issues that are, or should be, in the news and guest contributors on issues of social justice. Written from a STUC perspective, contributions will often cover areas where there is yet no settled STUC policy and go into areas in more detail than our formal decisions. We welcome debate and we don’t expect everyone to agree with us, but we will remove any comments that are offensive, irrelevant or otherwise annoy.
On 22nd Sept 2016, a social media campaign was launched in Egypt by the International Organization for migration: ‘A Day Without Migrants,’.
The aim was to highlight the real and positive impacts that migrants have on the host communities. Matt Carr, a freelance print and radio journalist, has urged migrants and their supporters to join in for a day of action on 20th February 2017 (20/2). He felt that the main triggers for this event were overpowering concern about worsening attitudes to migrants in the UK (Taylor D. (2016) the Guardian).
From the ambiguous idea that some sort of protest should be mounted, it is now taking a life of its own in calling for actions to support migrants’ right across the UK. A Day Without migrants is a National Day of Action on 20th Feb 2017 (20/2) to celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK, to coincide with UN World Day of Social Justice.
Just imagine for 24 hours, migrants from inside and outside the European Union, and everyone who supports them, celebrate the contribution that migrants make, including a labour boycott to demonstrate how important migrants are to the UK workforce.
The aim of the day of action is to emphasise the varieties of work migrants undertake to help keep the UK economy afloat – from the NHS, to the hospitality sector, to harvesting fruits and vegetables in the fields. The work too often is low paid and involves long hours. The organisers say a day without migrant labour can demonstrate how much the economy would struggle without their contribution.
Who is a migrant?
A migrant is any person living in a country other than where they were born. The number of international migrants in 2015 reached 244 million. (International Migration Report UN 2015). Women comprise slightly less than half of all international migrants worldwide representing 48% of global movement. Most migrants worldwide are of working age. As a result of this faster growth rate, the share of migrants in the total population reached 3.3 per cent in 2015. Many migrants living in Scotland have taken up citizenship.
Why do we need 20/2?
In spite of the many benefits of migration, migrants themselves remain among the most vulnerable members of society. They often work with no job security on zero hours contracts and are often the first to lose their job in the event of an economic downturn, often working for less pay, for longer hours, and in worse conditions than national workers.
While for many migration is an empowering experience, others endure human rights violations, abuse and discrimination. Migrants, particularly women and children, are too often victims of human trafficking and the heinous forms of exploitation that human trafficking entails. Further, in many parts of the world, migration remains one of the few options for people, particularly young people, to find decent work, provide for their families and escape poverty, persecution and violence.
What are we hoping to achieve?
A few days without migrant workers here could bring life to a halt soon enough. Migrant workers are found in both high skilled and low skilled industries. We can made a quick mental note of many ways on how we all depend on migrant labour: what if there were no au pairs/ cleaners/ house keepers working long hours so that thousands of professional women can get to work early and come home late; no migrants to sweep out the train/bus station concourses and opening their coffee shops before dawn; no cheap foreign contract cleaners in the financial centres/ hotels of the City; no foreign car washers for the executive cars; no overseas carers in the old people's homes; no Polish plumbers to fix the leaks; no Ukrainian builders on the construction sites; no Brazilians in the sandwich shops; no South Africans to pack the supermarket fruit and veg, and lets not talk about the many thousands of consultants, doctors/ GPs, nurses, care assistants and cleaners who work in our NHS helping cover the gaps caused by lack of Government funding. You can go on and on and on……you can create your own list of the debt we all owe to newly arrived workers who make our lives easier (Lawrence F.(2006) the Guardian).
I am very pleased to support the “No Racism: Protecting Rights, Defending Communities” Anti-Racism March and Rally 2016.
Scotland is a diverse country, and cultural attitudes have created a climate where diversity is increasingly recognised, accepted, celebrated. Individuals and communities are becoming more comfortable in demonstrating their multifaceted identities.
The outcome of the EU Referendum has caused understandable anxiety within the EU community, and I am alert to the fact that our communities are feeling more vulnerable. Let me be clear there is no place for any form of racist or religious prejudice in modern Scotland and it will not be tolerated.
We have made it crystal clear that the 181,000 EU nationals who have chosen to make their home here in Scotland are welcome and their contribution is valued. We will continue to press the UK Government to guarantee the residency status of fellow EU nationals who have made Scotland their home.
The Scottish Government is committed to tackling hate crime and we will continue to work with communities to create a Scotland which celebrates diversity and creates equality of opportunity for everyone.
We have established a strong framework and enforcement of legislation, including tackling antisocial behaviour; threatening or abusive behaviour and racially aggravated harassment. We have published a Race Equality Framework which will run until 2030 to take a long term approach towards improving outcomes for Scotland’s ethnic minority communities.
This event is an important reminder of the need to be vigilant about the threat racism poses to our communities and I commend the STUC and their partners for the leadership they have shown on this vital issue for many years I would like to send my best wishes to everyone taking part.
Last year, the annual St Andrew's Day March sent a powerful message that refugees are welcome in Scotland.
A humanitarian tragedy was unfolding across the globe, and the STUC led the charge for those of us who believe in compassion.
Since then, our world has witnessed one of the most turbulent years in living memory.
Along with the STUC I campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, but the referendum result did not go our way.
It was disappointing not least because of the economic consequences, such as the detrimental impact on the Scottish jobs and investment that the STUC fights for every single day.
But it was equally distressing because of the rise our country has witnessed in hate crime.
The vote across the UK was a result of years of growing distance between people with power and the people who power is exercised upon, yet there were those in the Leave campaign who used EU migrants as scapegoats.
Since June, an argument about the future of our country has been reduced to the sickening sight of Tory MPs arguing over whether EU migrants get to stay in our country, with increasingly xenophobic rhetoric seeping out from around Theresa May’s Cabinet table.
Across the Pond, the recent US presidential election brought out an even darker side of humanity, and the divisions caused by Donald Trump’s racist campaign will take years to heal.
Scottish Labour stands against those who wish to divide us, and stands firmly against racism wherever it may be found.
Scotland has a proud record of tolerance, but we must never be complacent and pretend to ourselves that our nation is immune to racism and hatred.
A few years ago, at one of the social events SCoJeC runs in all parts of Scotland, a young mother told us that when her daughter was being taunted by other children that “you killed Christ”, she did what any mother would do and went to discuss it with the teacher; the teacher’s response was, “What are you complaining about? – you did!” The dean of a medical school told a Jewish student that if she persisted in observing Shabbat they would “think twice about taking people with your kind of name”, and a six-former who was given a shower cap as a gift was told that the “joke” was that it was to wear in the gas chamber.
These stories so horrified the Scottish Government Community Safety Unit that they wanted to know just how typical these experiences are, and they commissioned our inquiry into “Being Jewish in Scotland”, which reported in 2012. We traveled round the country, collecting personal stories and giving Jewish people an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging, often for the very first time, and although there were concerns about grotesque parodies of religious beliefs and practices being peddled in schools, discrimination and abuse in universities, and the lack of culturally sensitive welfare provision, in general Jewish people felt they were “lucky to be Scottish and Jewish. I wouldn’t change either if I had to be born again”.
Sadly, that changed barely a year later. During one month in August 2014, we received almost as many reports of antisemitic incidents as we had in the whole of the previous year. Last year, a Jewish health worker told us, “I’m scared to tell people at work that I’m Jewish – I talk about going to church instead of synagogue”. Two young mothers in Edinburgh told us they no longer allow their children to walk to synagogue, or to speak Hebrew in the street. So many Jewish people said that they felt uncomfortable, anxious and even afraid to go about their day-to-day activities that the Scottish Government asked us to carry out a second study of how the experience of Being Jewish in Scotland had changed.
This time the findings were extremely sobering: no fewer than 10% of respondents could not think of anything at all good about being Jewish in Scotland. 17% said they “considered it risky to show my Jewish identity in public”. Some had changed their conduct to avoid Jewish gatherings including synagogue services, or for the first time had “seriously talked about an exit strategy for leaving Scotland.” This inquiry was dominated by expressions of insecurity and alienation, and 80% attributed this to attitudes to events in the Middle East. Most tellingly, the person who said in 2012 that “Scotland’s a darn fine place to be a Jew” now told us “I feel alienated – no longer Scottish first then Jewish; I feel Jewish only.”
The Scottish Government is taking these concerns seriously, and is supporting SCoJeC’s work to ensure that Jewish people in Scotland feel safe, supported, and well integrated. The First Minister told a packed communal meeting that "I don't want to be the First Minister, or even live in, a country where Jewish people want to leave or hide their identity", and she repeated that statement publicly at a national conference on hate crime.
Scottish Jews are here to stay, and the Scottish Government is working with us to overcome their feelings of negativity and alienation. Can everyone say the same? Is your own workplace “a darn fine place to be a Jew”?
A racist offensive is sweeping Europe, with governments and the right-wing media using migrants, refugees and Muslims as scapegoats for an economic crisis and wars they did not create.
The recent demolition of the refugee camp in Calais is just the latest example of a grotesque society that demonizes the victims of war and persecution. Despite this, thousands of people including around three hundred unaccompanied minors are stranded in Calais. Some of these children have been faced with the trauma of seeing their temporary homes destroyed – by fire or demolition.
Volunteers in Calais report that there are a number of unaccompanied children without access to shelter, regular food and water as a result of aid agencies being prevented from carrying out distributions in the camp.
It is unacceptable that children are being put at risk by the destruction of the camp.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd should act to safeguard the children evicted from the camp by bringing them safely to Britain under the Dubs Amendment; the French government should halt the demolition of the camp and allow aid agencies to distribute humanitarian aid.
The racist tide will only be driven back by anti- racists standing up and confronting it. From Germany to Greece to the USA, people who want a society free from racism are saying no more. People are taking to the streets in large numbers to oppose racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and to say migrants and refugees are welcome here.
This is why Stand up to Racism fully supports the STUC St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March and Rally. Trade unionists, students, people of all faiths and none, migrants, musicians, refugees, pensioners and parents, will march to make a defiant stand against racism.
We are the majority and we will stand up to racism.
NUS Scotland are proud to support STUC’s St Andrew's Day March. St Andrew’s Day gives us an important opportunity to show the strength of positive feeling that exists across our communities and country in standing up for those seeking a better life in Scotland. And perhaps in no year has that been more important.
The EU referendum has undoubtedly dominated the political sphere. But beneath the debates about timescales and negotiating positions we cannot forget that there are real people it has affected in a very real way: foreign nationals, living in Scotland and across the UK, who have faced an undoubted increase in horrific rhetoric, and even violence.
And if only it was rhetoric that stopped at the corridors of power – but it doesn’t. At times that rhetoric has started there. At Conservative party conference in September, we saw speakers falling over themselves to outdo the damaging and shameful speeches of whoever went before them, promising ever more damaging and shameful policies.
NUS Scotland is proud to make an impassioned case for the thousands of staff and students from other EU countries, and the thousands more from right around the world, who contribute huge amounts to our campuses, communities and country. In return, the least they deserve is to be treated with respect – not monitored and reported on, or used as a bargaining chip or target to be met. Foreign nationals living in Scotland are more than just a number – they are our colleagues, lecturers, fellow students, and friends.
And it’s not just with Brexit that we need to take action, and make that demand for a more compassionate country that works towards a better world. With the refugee crisis growing, and the daily and horrifying reminders we see of those feeling war and persecution, to be met by a disgraceful response from sections of the media and some politicians, it’s vitally important we unite in opposing racism everywhere it rears its ugly head.
While the St Andrews Day March evidences the huge number of organisations and individuals campaigning against racism and fascism, it’s a disgrace that responsibility has been left solely to our activists while governments across the world turn their backs. I want to believe – as a society, a country, and a world – that we’re better than that. That’s why I’m so proud we’re able to stand with STUC at this time, ensuring we make that message loudly to those who need to hear, and who must act on it.
We have made real progress in tackling racism in our society in recent years. The STUC and other groups have been at the forefront of efforts to curb racism and they deserve credit for their hard work. But the aftermath of the EU referendum shows that there is still a huge amount of work to be done if we are to tackle racism across the UK.
Scotland and the UK have proud tradition as safe havens for those fleeing persecution that dates as far back as the 16th century. It makes me angry that this tradition is now under threat.
The response from some media outlets questioning the age of children who are coming to the UK as refugees is the latest immigration storm. We should make no mistake. What we are facing here is little more than thinly veiled racism.
It is down to all of us who reject racist rhetoric to make the case for the UK meeting our international humanitarian obligations. We must work together to ensure that our country is open, tolerant and united. Division and hate must not win.
Education is key to eradicating the scourge of racism from our streets, from our schools and workplaces. This march is another opportunity to educate people and send a strong message that there is no place for racism anywhere in the UK.
I hope that those joining us on the march will take this message back to their own communities. When we hear racist abuse, we need to speak up.
Scotland’s cultural and racial diversity continues to be one
of our nation’s great assets.
We have a reputation as an open, tolerant and welcoming
society – one that values all people, no matter their colour, creed, gender or
Those of us who believe in this vision cannot shy away from
championing it. We must be unselfconscious about defending the values we share
and be steadfast in our commitment to seeing them upheld.
2016 has been a momentous year – for Scotland, the United
Kingdom and our friends and allies on both sides of the Atlantic.
However, there are constants even in
this period of flux.
Rooting out prejudice is as important today as it ever has
been and we have a duty to further the message that whether prompted by skin
colour, religion or nationality, discrimination is completely unacceptable in
But we cannot be complacent.
Across the country, our communities continue to be enriched
by those who have chosen to make this country their home.
And we are better for our acceptance of different faiths and
the protection we afford minorities.
But we must be honest with ourselves too. There remain
hostile voices and backward glances.
Instead of wishing them away, we must challenge these views
directly; redoubling our efforts to root out prejudice and tackle abuse.
It’s to the STUC’s enormous credit that the trade union
movement is in the vanguard of Scotland’s Anti-Racism movement. Once again, I’m
proud to offer this longstanding event my wholehearted support.
We haven't seen the same rise in reported incidents in Scotland as we have elsewhere following the vote to leave the EU, but that doesn't mean that people feel safe, or are not anxious about how people are viewing them in Scotland. Too many people still feel they have license to abuse their fellow citizens on racial or homophobic or other grounds.
We worked with the Scottish Government on the recently published Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which showed that negative attitudes towards some groups remain stubbornly entrenched, in particular for Gypsy/Travellers, people with mental health problems and transgender people.
However, it also showed significant improvements in attitudes towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people and showed that attitudes in general towards Scotland’s black and ethnic minority community remain positive. So we have made good progress, but clearly still have a long way to go.
We believe that part of the solution lies in understanding how best to challenge environments which are permissive of this sort of behaviour. The stark fact is that half of all reported hate crime incidents are committed by, and towards, young people.
Building confidence amongst young people, those who work with them and those who work in community settings, to tackle prejudice and discrimination wherever they see it is absolutely vital in tackling prejudice in Scotland. There is also a need to examine current evidence to see what is currently working, before we try to reinvent the wheel elsewhere.
This is a responsibility for all of us. We all have a part to play, from the Scottish Government, to our schools, to our workplaces, to each of us as individuals. We can make a change in society by refusing to be a bystander, showing leadership by example and speaking up and being an active citizen. It is everyone’s business to make this a thing of the past.
Scotland’s anti-racist movement comprises trade unions, voluntary organisations, community and religious groups, and political parties and many other activists. Working together, that movement has built a long track record of defending communities, protecting people’s rights, and making the case for a strong, diverse and inclusive society. But this movement also knows that its work will never be complete – we will always have more work to do if we’re determined to safeguard what’s already been achieved, and tackle the prejudice and hatred which still exists.
Now, with the racist far right undergoing a resurgence, that determination must be stronger than ever. Donald Trump’s election in the US has not only exposed his own personal racism; it has been brought about with the explicit support of white supremacists old and new. Across Europe we see the far right gaining ground, and in the coming months we must stand together with those opposing it in Austria, the Netherlands, France and many other countries.
And in this country, the Brexit campaign unleashed hatred, prejudice and intolerance at a frightening level, making those who harbour racist views feel legitimised. The result of the referendum threatens to undermine those bonds of solidarity and common action on human rights and equality which an internationalist anti-racist movement must be based on.
We must not relent. We must not be cowed by the successes of Trump or others. Above all, we must not treat them as a normal and legitimate part of the political process. The St Andrew’s Day march and rally gives us an annual opportunity to recommit ourselves to our shared task, not merely to oppose racism but to inspire in our fellow citizens a mutual understanding, respect and celebration which racism can never overcome.
The STUC Black Workers’ Committee is once again proud to be at the centre of organising the 2016 St Andrew's Day March and Rally against racism and fascism. We encourage you, your friends and your families to all participate this year and contribute to making it another successful event.
It is worth taking a few moments to reflect on the origins of this event, since the reasons why it originally took place are as relevant today as they were the very first time we marched.
The March and Rally began in 1989 as a counter-demonstration against the British National Party, who tried to defile Scotland’s national day by claiming it to peddle their hatred. A broad coalition of trade union and community groups rightly decided that there was no place in Scotland for racists and fascists. A counter demonstration was quickly organised. One that successfully dwarfed and overshadowed the efforts of the British National Party. Recognising that Scotland needed to be continually vigilant to the far-right in all its guises, the STUC has been involved in organising the St Andrew's Day event each year since. Over ensuing decades the STUC Black Workers’ Committee has been pivotal in making sure that the St Andrew's Day event has remained a positive focus for community cohesion, a vehicle for welcoming the diversity of all of Scotland’s citizens and for celebrating our shared humanity.
Since then, by organising and taking to the streets each year, wonderfully supported by an enviable range of like minded groups, we have prevented further efforts from the far right British Nationalist Party and the English/Scottish Defence Leagues from getting a foothold in Scotland.
Unfortunately the rise in racism and xenophobia resulting from the EU Referendum here in the UK and more from the US Presidential election campaign further afield has made the St Andrew's Day event especially relevant in 2016. Frustratingly and perversely, democracy seems to be promoting division, bigotry and prejudice instead of unity and acceptance. In too many instances, what was in 2015, the most unacceptable and offensive racist language has become overt and normalised in 2016. Hate crime is clearly more prevalent - here in Scotland as well as in the rest of the UK. The right wing media have become more bold with their extreme and all too often abhorrent views on EU and non-EU nationals alike, propagating myths and lies on migrants and migration. An unpleasant climate of intolerance is undoing so much of our good work and taking us backwards.
The STUC commends the leadership shown by the highest levels in Scottish Government, who always stand shoulder to shoulder with the trade unions to condemn racism and hate crime. Unfortunately Government leaders elsewhere in the UK are, at best slow with their condemnation, and sadly in too many cases are contributory parties.
All of these are compelling reasons for firmly uniting to challenge the divisive developments of 2016. We have successfully countered this before and we must do so again. Each year and every year until we have consigned racism and fascism to history.
St Andrew's Day is our day. A day which celebrates Scotland as the nation that we would all wish it to be - united, welcoming, accepting and thriving because of our rich and varied communities. In our Scotland there will never be any place for racism and fascism.
STUC Vice-President, STUC Black Workers' Committee and Prospect
The STUC Women’s
Committee has campaigned for years for family friendly workplaces. We all know the
crucial role carers in Scotland play in the labour force. The majority of
these carers are women so it’s a subject that is very dear to the hearts of the
women we represent.
Despite the legislation there are still very few employers embracing the
principle of family friendly working. Too many simply pay lip service to it
whilst actively discouraging flexible working requests and providing a variety
of spurious reasons to decline them.
This affects our performance in the workplace, the opportunities
available to us for promotion, our health and wellbeing and most of all our
family life. That’s why it’s one of the many topics we’ll be debating at the
STUC Women’s Conference in Perth at the end of October.
We are therefore delighted to be working with
Family Friendly Working Scotland (FFWS) on tackling the many barriers women in
particular face in the pursuit of a work-life balance.
Family Friendly Working Scotland was set up in
2014 with funding and support from the Scottish Government. As part of National
Work Life Week, FFWS are holding a conference in Glasgow on Thursday 6 October
which the STUC Women’s Committee fully supports. I will be attending with a
colleague from the Women’s Committee, Joyce Stephenson from CWU.
The event is an opportunity to discuss the many different aspects of
family friendly working and the benefits they bring. It also covers practical
ideas for employers to take this forward in their organisations, how the
different policies work in practice and how FFWS can help support employers to
make Scotland a family friendly place to work.
The STUC Women’s
Committee and FFWS aim to follow this up with a joint event which looks at flexible working approaches for non-standard
working patterns. We will keep you updated on how this is progressing and hope
that as many trade union women as possible can attend this event.