Movement for Justice

By any means necessary
Phone: 0208 674 4051 or 07985 403 781 - MFJ, PO Box 27497, London, SW9 7HU E-mail: mail@movementforjustice.org.uk - Facebook: “Movement For Justice By Any Means Necessary” www.movementforjustice.org.uk

Briefing on the Equality Bill & Positive Action
The Equality Bill has gone through all its stages in the House of Commons, and has now completed the Committee stage in the House of Lords. The Tories had put down amendments to restrict the Positive Action clauses, but they did not push them to a vote. The final debate and votes in the House of Lords are scheduled for 2nd March and it then goes back to the House of Commons. It should be enacted by the end of that month – but it is still essential that we fight to ensure that it is passed before the forthcoming General Election. For the first time in British law the Equality Bill will provide for real POSITIVE ACTION in employment, at the actual point of recruitment. It will be possible to take someone’s race, sex etc into account when appointing or promoting workers, in order to reverse the effects of discrimination. Without such action to overcome institutionalised racism, sexism etc discrimination will never be eradicated. The Bill establishes that public bodies are not restricted to commercial considerations when using their procurement and contracting powers, but can take equality issues into account. Furthermore, it establishes that they can implement or support programmes and organisation that serve the needs of particular discriminated-against groups in order to achieve greater equality. The Bill will also give Employment Tribunals the power to recommend that an employer makes changes in the treatment of all workers in a discriminated-against category, not just the individual who brought the complaint. Another important advance is that the Equality Bill will significantly strengthen students’ rights to challenge schools, colleges and universities etc over discrimination, harassment and victimisation. In a ground-breaking departure the Equality Bill will place a new duty on public bodies to ensure that their policies advance economic and social equality. This is the first time anti-discrimination law has addressed the class inequality that is entwined with the entrenched racial and gender discrimination in British society.

It’s time to put words into action
The legal advances, such as Positive Action, contained in the Equality Bill are a victory for our struggles. They are a response to the movement that forced the Stephen Lawrence inquiry to speak the truth about institutional racism in the police, to the movement that mobilised for the right to speak the truth about racism around Alex Owolade’s case in Lambeth, to the movement against racial discrimination by the Council planning office in Southwark that was inspired by the successful struggles in Lambeth and led to Lord Ouseley’s report in March 2005, to the struggle of Southall Black Sisters against Ealing Council’s proposed withdrawal of their funding, along with many other fights against discrimination. Now we have to end the years of reports and policy documents and hands in the air, claiming that “we don’t know why it is happening”. The facts are clear, the task we have now is to enact the change.

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We have to build a public campaign now to popularise the progressive measures in the Equality Bill, both to ensure that it is passed into law and to prepare the ground for implementing and enforcing it in actual practice.

How we can use Positive Action to address the institutional racism in our councils, workplaces, communities etc by: • • •
• • Making sure that there are annual targets for equality programmes. Demanding that the Equality Bill’s provisions for Positive Action in recruitment are used to create truly integrated workforces at every level. Demanding that short-term targets are set for black and other ethnic minority and women’s representation, to be attained at each grade and in every part of your workplace Specifying minimum levels of representation of black and other ethnic minorities, women and other discriminated-against groups as one of the criteria for firms tendering for public service contracts. Establishing apprenticeships for 16 & 18 years olds from local schools, with proportionate representation for black ethnic minorities and women students. Demanding that council’s use the powers the Bill gives them to assist and fund organisations that focus on the needs of black and other ethnic minorities, women and other groups who face discrimination. Demanding Positive Action in public bodies’ dealings with black and ethnic minority businesses.

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Our action can ensure that the Equality Bill leads to real change
Passing and enforcing the Equality Bill will represent a defeat for all for the forces that resist change and for the right-wing who want to shift the political climate towards a re-assertion of white male privilege. But all this depends on our collective efforts to publicise, promote, implement and enforce the new law. Any progressive measures that are won by our struggles are only as good as our ability and willingness to maintain and heighten our level of struggle. There will be plenty of people who want to disarm us by pointing out the limitations of the Equality Bill. These are real enough: the enforcement powers need to be stronger; equal pay audits should be mandatory and not left to employers’ goodwill or the goodwill of future governments; the specific requirement for race equality impact assessments should be maintained, not left as a ‘grey area’ in the Bill; there are too many exemptions for religious institutions and the immigration authorities. However, our ability to redress these shortcomings depends entirely on our success in building a movement that recognises all the ways in which the Equality Bill is our victory, fights to ensure that it is enacted, and seizes the opportunity to implement and enforce its progressive provisions.

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