The CBWG Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on Wednesday, 23rd November 2022 as a hybrid meeting in person and on MS Teams. The Chair, Hugo Pierre, welcomed people to the meeting and highlighted that it was the CBWG’s 40th anniversary year. The CBWG had had a 40th anniversary gala event at the Irish Centre in October at which one of the early founders, Azim Hajee, and Neville Lawrence had addressed the audience. Neville had thanked the trade union movement for their support of the campaign for justice for his son (photos and videos of anniversary gala available in the CBWG page of this website).
Lester Holloway, the editor of The Voice newspaper, addressed the meeting via MS Teams. He highlighted that – for the last 20 years – Black unemployment had been at least twice as high as white unemployment. Earnings for ethnic minority workers also tended to be lower, and this had an impact on level of home ownership and inter-generational wealth transfer, as poorer families were less able to buy homes and had less wealth to pass onto their children.
He also highlighted the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns, which had harmed workers in precarious employment who were not always able to benefit from furlough schemes. This had followed on from the effects of years of austerity, which had disproportionately harmed racial minority communities.
Lester also spoke of the importance of trade unions in fighting for better terms and conditions for workers and warned of the pending future attacks on trade unions by the Conservative government. He condemned the government’s drive to leave the European Convention on Human Rights and draft its own “British Bill of Rights”.
After Lester Holloway, Camden Unison Branch Secretary, Liz Wheatley, addressed the meeting. She echoed Lester’s points about austerity and lockdown having disproportionately hit many low-paid Black and minority ethnic workers. She pointed out that the rich had continued to get richer, while many others suffered financially. There were now more than 170 billionaires in the UK; and the Prime Minister, his wife and in-laws were also very rich. Given his affluence and that of many other ministers, the Conservative government led by Rishi Sunak did not appreciate the problems ordinary people faced and was not interested in tackling them.
Liz also said that the recent furore over people crossing the Channel on small boats and the plan to force asylum seekers to go to Rwanda were illustrations of the danger of scapegoating of migrants and refugees to divert attention from austerity. She said that Camden Unison would stand alongside other groups in campaigning against this.
Liz Wheatley added that, given the scandals around Boris Johnson and the fact that Liz Truss had been forced out after less than 50 days, the Conservative government was weak and it might be possible for workers in dispute to win concessions from them. She said that activists from Camden Unison had supported the CWU and RMT on the picket line in their disputes.
Vino Sangarapillai and ‘Jare Oyewole, the Co-Convenors, spoke to illustrate highlights of their written reports. In particular, progress had been made in terms of increasing the proportion of employees from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds and there had been an increase in representation at the top of the structure. ‘Jare said the Council had pledged to have no “all-white shortlists” for roles at Level 5 and above.
The meeting heard from members on the various concerns they had about the way that restructures had taken place and how interviews were conducted. It was also noted that “blind” recruitment was not really possible as, for internal applicants, the information they provided on the form in terms of outlining their achievements would identify who they were to the recruiter.
The meeting then heard from one of the Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Programme Officers. The presentation was about the Council’s Anti-Racism Learning Offer (ARLO), which more than 80% of staff had participated in. Face-to-face sessions had been available for staff who were not office or computer-based. The aim of her service was to embed the learning from the ARLO in the organisation. A 2-hour E-learning module was also being developed. This would be mandatory for staff.
the following officers were elected to the CBWG Executive:
• Chairperson – Hugo Pierre
• Convenors – ‘Jare Oyewole and Vino Sangarapillai
• Treasurer – Judy Frederick
• Communications Officer – Jahnelle Hutton-Parr
• Executive members –
• Dolly Akin-Agunbiade
• Clive Collins
• Asif Iqbal
• Muna Matewos
• Sandra Soteriou
• Lioko Mabika
• Emma Le Blanc