Organising against racism: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March

The historic and contemporary racial legacies of colonialism and slavery still shape the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

The rise of the far right in many parts of the world is further fuelling racism, discrimination, and xenophobia. It’s time to dismantle intersecting systems of oppression and discrimination that perpetuate systemic racism in our societies and in the world of work.

Racial discrimination continues to affect millions of working people around the globe, denying them dignity, respect, and equal opportunity.

The current multiple crises – health and socio-economic triggered by Covid-19, the climate crisis, global peace and stability escalated by war on Ukraine, the cost of living – are disproportionally borne by women and men who have been on the margins of our societies for too long because of discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuse.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and widened racial inequities with regards to access to education, health, and employment. Before the pandemic, racialised workers were already overrepresented in insecure low-paid jobs with no or inadequate access to social protection. This makes them especially vulnerable to the current cost-of-living emergency with many being forced to take on second jobs or being at risk of in-work poverty.

Even at work, racialised workers face discrimination daily:

  • In the UK, a report by the TUC demonstrates how racism affects every aspect of life of black working people, from hiring and firing, to training and promotion opportunities, to the allocation of shifts and holidays.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has proclaimed the global climate crisis as a racial justice crisis. Racially, ethnically and nationally marginalised groups of people are living in areas hardest hit by pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change, and are the most affected by climate-induced migration.

Trade unions around the world are organising and campaigning against racism and xenophobia by:

  • Setting up black worker or anti-racist networks to help amplify worker activism.
  • Developing programmes that aim to combat the normalisation of far-right discourse built on dangerous narratives about race that divide working people.
  • By stepping up efforts to ensure that their structures are more inclusive and reflective of the workers they represent.

On 21 March, unions will be calling for racial justice everywhere: in our workplaces, our communities, and within our ranks. There can be no meaningful solution to the multiple intersecting crisis if the root causes of systemic racism are not adequately addressed.

We call for a New Social Contract to ensure a more equitable, inclusive and resilient recovery to build more democratic societies.