BAME Issues on the Agenda

Our ATSS Branch Assistant Secretary, Sam Mathew, has become involved over the last year in a Prospect project on the representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Workers, leading to his recent participation in the TUC Black Workers’ Conference as a part of the delegation from Prospect.

Sam reports below on his experience in participating in this Prospect work. A shorter version of Sam’s report has been reproduced in the journal ‘Report’, the Prospect magazine for Representatives in its May 2017 edition, which can be downloaded here –


Andy Mooney

ATSS Branch Secretary


Prospect BAME -Working group

My involvement in Prospect’s race equality work began when I attended the Prospect BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) members training seminar at Ruskin College, Oxford last year July 2016. My colleague Andy Mooney (Prospect ATSS Secretary) had encouraged me to participate on behalf of ATSS (Air Traffic Systems Specialists) branch. Since then I have attended a number of meetings of the BAME working group and am actively involved.

Meeting liked minded reps from the BAME group and listening to their experiences struck chord with me, so I was happy to become more involved with the BAME working group and the chance to work towards improving equality of opportunity provided motivation for me to continue my involvement within the group.

During an evening session at Ruskin College, Elizabeth Cameron (from Unison) discussed some of the difficulties and struggles that she had faced during her working life. As a young working black woman she described the many inequalities she has faced and has had to deal with. Moreover, she described the ways in which she now encourages other women just like her, to tackle similar issues. Now she helps other black workers tackle the inequalities across the UK.

The inequalities that many Black and Ethnic minorities face across the country, not only unsettles me, but inspires me to use this in a positive way to act and help in any way possible.

A recent report in the Guardian newspaper revealed that there are still on-going racial inequalities in 2016/17 (26th Dec 2016), an extract is shown below:

Black engineering graduates are less likely to find jobs than white students with lower second or third class degrees, according to a report that reveals stark inequalities within the profession. 

The review, by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), found that being black or minority ethnic was a bigger obstacle to employment than any other factor considered, including degree classification, attending a less prestigious university or gender.

Being in Prospect helps me to have an understanding and promote awareness and this I hope will contribute to a much needed culture change across the UK. My experience, which I am sure is shared by other BAME Prospect members, is that in most cases, race discrimination (including institutional racism) is not seen or understood by my white colleagues. The outcome of this is that being a black or ethnic minority worker, we have to work harder to prove ourselves, than our white colleagues do working the same job and still there remains a glass ceiling


TUC Black Workers Conference 2017

In April 2017 I had an opportunity to attend the TUC Black conference. This was my first time attending a Black Workers Conference, and my first time participating in a TUC event.

On Friday 7th April I attended a pre-meeting at Prospect HQ, where we discussed our main Prospect motion. I was asked to speak in support of a motion, #6 ‘Black Workers must not pay for the price for Brexit’. I spoke more specifically to the amendment that Prospect had submitted.

Brexit was a prominent topic at the conference and many delegates who spoke referenced the number of racial incidents that had increased due to the outcome of the referendum resulting in ‘Brexit’. A recent violent incident gave us a stark reminder of this where a young Kurdish refugee in Croydon was violently attacked whilst waiting for a bus. This served to reiterate the dangers that many black and ethnic minority groups regularly have to deal with either through real fear of something happening when they leave their homes or of something actually happening – from verbal abuse to actual physical harm.

Whilst at the BW TUC I was able to attend some fringe meetings and workshops. One of these was a workshop on “Hate Crimes” and during this workshop we were given scenarios of hate crimes and then discussed ways of dealing with them.

We also had the opportunity of listening to Marilyn Reed (the mother of Sarah Reed), who promoted the Sarah Reed campaign. Marilyn shared her daughters sad story in a very touching and inspiring way, which strengthened my support for justice since hearing it. ‘Black lives do Matter’

Growing up during the 70’s as a member of an ethnic minority group I can readily remember the more overt racist behaviours that were prevalent at time. I can see that, whilst there is more political correctness in 2017, some of the underlying racist thinking is very much alive. Listening to all the speakers reflecting on their own struggles and sharing their experiences really touched me. I wanted more than ever to stand up to racism, both in the work place and in our society, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.

Furthermore I was happy and able to support my colleagues from Prospect during their speeches and I had the invaluable opportunity to meet members from BECTU as well as meeting equally motivated individuals from other unions

Prospect delegates had a high profile during the Conference. In addition to my own contributions, we made a number of other important interventions:

Satnam Ner moved Prospect’s motion on ‘Under-representation of BME groups’, focussing heavily on the important role of addressing unconscious bias. This important debate involved 9 speakers from 8 different trade unions.

First time delegate Riaz Meer, from Prospect’s BECTU sector spoke in support of Equity union’s motion on inclusive casting in the entertainment industry.

Another first time delegate Michael Owuye spoke in support of the First Division Association’s (FDA) motion on navigating the labyrinth faced by BAME members in getting into senior leadership positions.

Through attending the TUC Black Workers Conference, we as the BAME community hope that we have some specific polices that unions, businesses and political leaders take effective action on.

In summary, all 20 motions that were debated were carried and will be incorporated into the annual work plan of the TUC Race Relations Committee.

Finally, I would like to thank Prospect for organising and motivating BAME reps in such important matter.


Sam Mathew