The National Black and Ethnic Minority Members’ Conference 2017

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Circular No: NP/149/17
Our Ref: EO/4

TO ALL BRANCHES, REGIONAL OFFICES & REGIONAL COUNCILS

22nd September 2017

Dear Colleague,

The National Black and Ethnic Minority Members’ Conference 2017

I write with regards to the above matter and to inform you that the resolutions which were successfully passed at this year’s National Black and Ethnic Minority Members’ Conference have now been considered by the union’s National Executive Committee. The resolutions together with the NEC decisions are as follows:-

1.    Annual Celebration of the Life and Work of our Black and Ethnic Minority Icons

“Building on our RMT BAEMMAC's successful organisation of an event during Black History Month in October 2016 - “HONOURING PAUL ROBESON” - which those present will affirm was a great educative and inspirational event, we call on RMT's National Executive Committee to do more to promote events to celebrate the life and work of our own phenomenal Black and Ethnic Minority icons.

“When we commemorate our ancestors, we understand our present conditions better, realise our strengths, and begin to work out how to determine solutions for our collective future. These activities help us to commemorate and honour the struggles of our heroes and heroines, the continuing struggles against imperialism of our peoples worldwide, and encourage and support our hopes for a positive and progressive future.

“Our own iconic heroes and heroines already exist in abundance. They provide clues, keys and instructions for our survival and the restoration of full respect of our rights in many ways.

“This Conference calls on the General Secretary to publicise through Circulars to RMT Branches and Regional Councils, by email communication direct to members, by commissioning articles in RMT News and via the RMT website and a regular annual event in 2017 and all subsequent years to celebrate the life and works of our own Black and Ethnic Minority heroes and heroines. The event should be organised each year in full consultation with our elected BAEMMAC members.

“To start the ball rolling we wish to propose in 2017 a celebration during Black History Month of the life and work of Claudia Jones (the Trinidadian-born communist and founder of the Notting Hill Carnival) and in future years consideration of other great figures such as Fela Kuti (pioneer of Afrobeats and Nigerian civil rights activist) and Shapurji Saklatvala (Indian-born member of the Independent Labour Party who was elected in 1921 as Britain's first Communist MP in Battersea North).”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“That we note the proposal for an event in 2017 and we instruct the General Secretary to consult with B&EMMAC as to future events.”

2) Celebrating 25 Years of RMT Black and Ethnic Minority Members’ Advisory Committee

“In order to mark 25 years since the establishment by our union in 1992 of RMT’s Black and Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee (BAEMMAC), which continues to campaign for greater involvement of Black and Ethnic Minority Members in all aspects of RMT’s work and at all levels of our union, this conference calls on the General Secretary to recognise this important democratic achievement.

We celebrate the consistent work of RMT Black and Ethnic Minority activists and seek to widen participation by our members in RMT’s BAEMMAC.  To this end we call on the General Secretary to raise the profile of BAEMMAC among our members by publishing a series of researched articles on the creation of BAEMMAC and interviews with Black and Minority Ethnic trade unionists in RMT News magazine and to feature these prominently on RMT’s website for social media sharing.  We ask for a range of articles to be commissioned explaining the work of the BAEMMAC across all the industrial sectors and regions that RMT organises.  In particular, we call on the union to recognise the contribution and impact those members such as Asquith Xavier (NUR Marylebone Branch) and the so-called “Paddington Guards” who struggled to end the racist “colour-bar” that prevented Black workers from gaining promotion in the rail industry.

This conference also calls on the General Secretary to produce various branded items for sale to members in consultation with the BAEMMAC to commemorate this 25th anniversary celebration.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“That we instruct the General Secretary to take up in line with the resolution.”

3)     UN International Decade for People of African Descent
Resolution:-

“This conference calls on the RMT nationally, to give maximum support to the UN Decade for Afrikan and so called people of Afrikan descendants.
The decade is currently running from 2015 – 2024.
 
The UK government while agreeing to the decade at UN level has so far done nothing about the decade.
 
Activists in the UK have set up an organisation to campaign for the decade.
 
IDPAD (Independent Decade for People of Afrikan Descent) is an organisation set up to make the remainder of the decade a reality.

IDPAD is already being supported by RMT members within the London Transport Regional Council’s Black Solidarity Committee (BSC).
 
To take IDPAD’s work nationally, RMT are being asked to help with venue and recourses around the country, such as meeting place and help with posters and publicity.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

 “That we instruct the General Secretary to write to Regional Councils and draw their attention to this and should they wish to organise this will be classed as a legitimate expenditure.”

4)     New Phase Of Imperialism
 
“The result of the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US represents a fundamental shift in Global Politics and power.
 
This will undoubtedly result in a new phase of Global Imperialism.  
 
Our union, Representatives, Activists and members are extremely politicised.
 
Our Black and Ethnic Minority members reflect and represent the global community whose friends and family will be under threat in this new era.
 
The union nationally should prepare.

1)  Education of our members with special attention to our Black and Ethnic minority members.
2)   Continue to build links with trade unions and community organisations both here and in the global South.
3)   Education via workshops, public meetings, publications, social media and offer platforms to those who are in a position to fight back on issues such as the re-emergence of the work of the anti liberation organisation ‘Stolenwealth’ – also known as the commonwealth.
4)   Work with progressive international organisations to combat this new phase of imperialism.
 
Note:

A resolution that was substantively the same was already on the AGM 2017 agenda.

National Executive Committee Decision on the AGM resolution:-

“That we note the AGM resolution and the call to oppose Global Imperialism and the importance of educating our members on the danger of imperialism and the need to develop and maintain international links.  We support such sentiments and undertake to promote this work in our activities.”

5)   Role of the Black and Ethnic Minority Committee
 
“The B&EMMAC represents a wealth of experience.
 
However, it will be many years before any of them will get the opportunity to serve as a Officer of our union, or get to hold and Executives Committee members post.
 
Until then, the wider membership is being denied the opportunity of this collective experience.
 
This 2017 Black and Ethnic minority conference ask that the National Executive and the legal sub invite the views of members, nominated by the National Black and Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee, on;
a)   Concluded legal cases relating to matters of racism, in order that lessons can be learnt.
b)   Live cases in order to ensure that our service can be equality infused.
 
This should not require a rule change.

However, as this is the standard mottos apparatus of obstruction to greater involvement of our BEM members, we call on the National Executives to, if necessary, put forward rule change to this year’s Annual General Meeting.”      

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“We instruct the General Secretary to seek the views of the legal department as to the logistics of carrying out the resolution.”

6)  Enslavement

“This conference recognises and celebrates RMT’s proud position on demanding Reparations for atrocities committed during Trans-Atlantic enslavement.

This conference notes the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which lists offences include slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

Slavery is not a thing of the past but an atrocity that exists to this day. Some reports state that there are between 21 and 46 million person’s subject to enslavement today. Elements of enslavement include:
•    Forced labour
•    Bonded labour
•    Human trafficking
•    Descent-based slavery
•    Child slavery
•    Slavery in supply chains
•    Forced and early marriage

The list is non-exhaustive and the press tends to highlight high profile cases such as the conflict in Syria and the plight of the Yazidi women.

This conference appreciates that labour movement is under attack and the use of emotive calls to rally are essential. However, the comparison of UK Employment/Trade Union law and slavery is unhelpful. On the face of it these comparisons may seem valid but on scrutiny such comparisons are a gross and unhelpful exaggeration. These comparisons belittle the suffering of the past and contribute to inter-generational post traumatic stress as well as trivialising the ongoing suffering by present day victims.

This conference believes that UK law does not require specific performance in a employment contract by an employee to an employer. Additionally, there is a perceived migration issue nationally with the UK seen as good place to work and live.

This conference resolves to see respect for victims of enslavement and their descendants by ceasing to trivialise the existing practices of enslavement.

This Conference seeks to ensure appropriate language is used to effectively challenge the Trade Union Act and empower workers rights by using adequate language and avoid the union from standing accused of gross and inappropriate exaggeration.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“The sentiment of the resolution is noted and we agree that appropriate language should be used.”
    
7)  Celebrating Migration

“Conference appreciates that the world is an ever changing place and people move around more readily for a variety of reasons. Following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, there has been an increase in racism against those seen as "the other". The "Brexit" campaign saw Syrian refugees depicted as a mass of persons stretching the EU to "breaking point". The terms of migrant, refugee and asylum seeker are seen as interchangeable and are often coloured with a false negative narrative.

Conference seeks to challenge the negative media that surrounds migrants, refugees and asylum seekers which may also be recognised as "expatriates".

Conference wishes to celebrate the diversity that persons from overseas may bring to these shores, including the Germanic Angles and the rich European tapestry that contributes to the United Kingdom.

Congress notes the rich influence, contributors from outside Europe have made on British culture including the influences of the Abrahamic faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Conference also notes the great migrations and diasporas that took place to shape the United Kingdom as such a desirable place to reside.

Conference seeks to celebrate migration to the United Kingdom and the benefits to United Kingdom Society of migration, whilst seeking to prevent the escalation of racism.

Conference calls on the NEC to sponsor and assist in organising an event with the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, Waltham Forest Migrant Action and Waltham Forest Stand up to racism, within the next six months.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“That we instruct the General Secretary to write to the Regional Council drawing attention to the resolution stating that should they wish to support such an event this is classed as legitimate branch expenditure.”

8)  Stop the Senseless Youth Killings
 
“This Conference is concerned by the senseless killings of our young Black & Ethnic youths within our communities. The killings have spiralled out of control and is making momentum as we start the New Year of 2017 with the killings not only of Ethnic minorities but of other races and the recent death in Willesden of school boy Quamari Barnes aged just 15 along with many others. New figures revealed that three people were killed or seriously injured in stabbings on the streets of the capital each day in 2016.
 
The Met statistics showed 60 people were stabbed to death last year, while 1,159 sustained serious injuries.

In total officers dealt with 21,365 Knife crimes, including domestic assaults involving knives and gang attacks, in London in the 12 months of 2016.  The statistics, obtained by Freedom of Information rules, show the total number of knife crimes rose by 17 per cent last year compared to 2015 when there were 59 deaths, 1,089 serious injuries and 18,202 less serious offences.
 
As being a (BEMMAC) Black & Ethnic minority RMT member and a father, uncle myself I find this very stressful and disturbing that this is going on and not being tackled.

I feel that this serious issue must be addressed at every opportunity and put to an end. This Conference calls on the GS to come together with solidarity to find a strategy on how we can deal with this contagious and on going problem within our society which does not only affect the black community but also affects everyone that associated with such circumstances. As a solution we can ask ourselves what we as Trade Union Activist are prepared to do, what we as parents are prepared to do, what we as a community are prepared to do and what measures which could be put in place to combat and prevent such awful and senseless killings.

This conference is asking that the GS supports Stephan Brown and his team with STOP OUR KIDS BEING KILLED ON OUR STREETS campaign which has no Government funding and help publicise relevant on-going events and information in every possible way.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“We instruct the General Secretary to seek more information on the campaign and bring back before the NEC.”

9)    Free Kashmir

“Kashmir has been burning since 1947, when Jammu Kashmir was acceded to India. Since then the Indian Army has embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, torture, imprisonment, burning, which in all respects is genocide.

Kashmiris are unable to go to school, access medical facilities, due to regular 'crackdowns" by the military, and curfews. Kashmiris are discriminated against in India for jobs.

Summer of 2016 saw unprecedented prolonged assault by the Army upon Civilians, targeting women and children with pellet guns, resulting in permanently blinding hundreds, and a curfew which lasted almost six months. This resulted in children unable to attend educational establishment, businesses of which there are few unable to function.

No medical or food or aid of any sort is permitted to enter. India "The Largest Democracy' since 1989, had 800.000 Indian troops stationed in Kashmir. 100k people massacred. 30k people gang raped. Tens of thousands imprisoned without trial. Thousands MISSING. Countless mass graves. Last year the campaign against Kashmiris by India intensified: 2016: 200 blinded by pellet guns, including children women and men. 5k injured. A six month curfew which turned Kashmir into a prison.

This branch is aware of the human rights abuses in Kashmir by the Indian Army, and conference asks the General Secretary and the NEC to call upon the Government to: express concern about the violence, disproportionate use of military force, against civilians, by the Indian Army.- take immediate steps in resolving this colonial Injustice, addressing the failure of both India and Pakistan to comply with United Nation Security Council Resolution 47, for a plebiscite allowing Kashmiris to determine their own future and for government to increase economic and political pressure on India condemning its continuous campaign of lethal force, and human right abuses and violations.

Conference calls upon the General Secretary and the NEC to demand a written response from the Government, and for the General Secretary to support campaigns by organisations approved by the RMT / BEMMAC for a Free Kashmir."

Note:

This resolution was submitted to the AGM.

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“That we take this up in line with AGM policy and in line with the debate at the AGM.”

10)    NB&EMMAC Name Change

“This conference appreciates the efforts the union has made in establishing and maintaining its equality liberation strands within its organising and recruiting functions.

RMT’s National Black and Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee was established through the efforts of RMT’s black activist members within the union and at the TUC.

The term ‘Ethnic Minority’ is an outdated term that is irrelevant to the composition or contribution made by its members. It is a self-demeaning label that reasserts misconceptions and upholds unfavourable stereotypes.

This conference recognises that it is not the unions intention or purpose, to maintain a description of black workers that unconsciously discriminates. That maintenance of expanded descriptive labels befits intersectionality theory, based on identity politics rather than establish socialist tenets.

This conference notes that a purpose of the National Black and Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee is to increase awareness among union members. How black members reconcile class with racism discourse is vital to achieving anti-racism strategies.

The acronym, ‘NB&EMMAC’ besides being both cumbersome and impracticable, is a profound reminder of our own inability to address relevant issues.

This branch resolves that the National union fully consults with its Black and Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee to seek a meaningful name change, which not only suitably aligns with the TUC’s understanding of ‘Political Black’ but one which develops and recognises the committee’s relevance.”

National Executive Committee Decision:-

“We instruct the General Secretary to write to the Advisory Committee seeking their views and bringing back any suggested changes to the NEC.”

11)     A Call to Defend Black Workers and Activists    

“This Conference notes:

In September 2016, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes used his status and public platform to discredit Black Jewish activist, Jackie Walker. He claimed,

“He was deeply saddened a fellow member of our Labour and trade union family holds such anti-Semitic views” and that “someone with such abhorrent ‘racist” views should be thrown out of the Labour party and campaigning group, Momentum” (Huffington Post report 29 Sept 2016).
 
The TSSA General Secretary’s intervention, along with several other political commentators created a furore around Ms Jackie Walker in a purposeful attempt to discredit her.   

Ms Walker had also identified:

    Holocaust Memorial Day does not acknowledge genocidal events prior to World War II.
    Zionism is a political ideology, which criticism of such doesn’t automatically denote anti-Semitic conduct.

Those claiming that Jackie Walker’s comments were anti-Semitic fail to acknowledge Jackie being Jewish herself.

TSSA General Secretary’s speaking as a representative of a transport union failed to consider the consequence and irrevocable damage he has caused to black activists in the labour movement.

This Conference believes:

A consequence of weaponising accusations of anti-Semitism, has seen an increase of victimised black activists and campaigners – including (non-exhaustive list); Jackie Walker, Malia Bouattia, Marc Wadsworth and Shami Chakrabarti.

A secondary feature has seen a redefinition of racism (as provided by the Labour party) which not only labels critics of the Israeli Government or Zionism, as anti-Semitic but also, silences black community activists speaking from their experiences - which ultimately damages anti-racism struggles.

Basic solidarity should require that when someone is under attack you defend them, not add fuel to the flames. That we act in solidarity with community activists by challenging all forms of racism to seek solutions and achieve necessary change.

This Conference resolves:

    To reaffirm our union’s and the wider labour movement’s commitment to anti-racism activism. We oppose any attempts to distort narratives of racial discourse for illegitimate political gain.
    To work with the General Secretary in publicising a statement in support of vilified black activists and a series of corresponding articles in RMT News that recognises the struggle faced by black workers.
    To raise this issue to regional and national levels of our union to develop strategies in consultation with our National Black & Ethnic Minority Members Advisory Committee board. With an aim to provide a more immediate response (in the future) to antagonism and how black community activists are portrayed in the media.”

Note:

This resolution was submitted to the AGM.

National Executive Committee Decision:

“That we note the AGM resolution and the attempt to stop legitimate criticisms in a democratic society.  The resolution calls for opposition to those who have made attempts to discredit activists as a way of stifling legitimate debate.  The resolution calls for us to reaffirm our commitment to anti-racist activism and publish an article in RMT News on the matter to raise awareness of this issue.  The General Secretary is instructed accordingly.”

I will now be acting on the instructions of these decisions and I will, of course, keep you fully advised on any further developments. I would be grateful if you could bring the contents of this circular to the attention of your members.

Yours sincerely
 
Mick Cash
General Secretary