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January 23rd, 2020:

UCU week of action against workplace racism 10-15 Feb 2020

UCU week of action against workplace racism

10-15 February 2020:
Education under attack

In 2020 we will be holding a week of action starting the week beginning 10 February 2020.

‘…you’re really articulate for a black person’

‘…but where are you REALLY from?’

‘…although it seems very minor, consistent and persistent misspelling of my name.  If you can learn Dostoyevsky…’

Extracts from the UCU survey into the experiences of black workers in further and higher education, 2015

Building an anti-racist environment

This annual campaign event has grown from strength to strength as it involves a whole union approach in tackling the issues of workplace racism and its impact on careers, mental health and well-being and relationships with peers/students. Racist incidents are on the rise across the country and UCU needs to be at the forefront of challenging and pushing back on workplace racism.

The 2020 theme ‘building an anti-racist environment’ explores the impact of workplace racism and the changes black staff are seeking across the sector.

New films are available featuring members of UCU’s Black Members’ Standing Committee discussing approaches to tackling discrimination. The films can be used in a variety of ways. We have found they are a useful resource to show during a lunchtime meeting allowing plenty of time for follow-up discussions and goal setting.

Branch are encouraged to engage with members, colleagues and the wider institution by hosting events looking at least one of the following areas:

1. Barriers to progression

Week of action 2020: barriers to progression poster [134kb]

2. Race pay gap

Week of action 2020: race pay gap poster [34kb]

3. Decolonising education

Week of action 2020: decolonising education poster [301kb]

4. Hostile environment

Week of action 2020: hostile environment poster [329kb]

Please let us know what you have planned for your week of action.

Suggested activities and other resources

Below are some other resources and suggestions you may want to use to stimulate discussion among members and students.

  1. Watch our ‘witness’ campaign film in which UCU black members speak candidly about their experiences of everyday racism and its impact.
  2. Host a meeting to discuss what and how branches can challenge and change perceptions including working with other equality groups to ensure that workplace racism is challenged on an intersectional basis.
  3. Use our survey findings from our most recent report ‘ Staying Power [1mb]‘ (2019) and our initial ‘witness’ report [132kb] (2016).
  4. Involve black staff to share their experiences of everyday racism in the workplace – devise an action plan of how branches can work toward addressing the issues raised.
  5. Share the witness document [824kb] capturing some of the experiences of UCU black members.
  6. Use our bargaining guide on tackling workplace racism [343kb] to raise the issues identified with employers as an integral part of the collective bargaining agenda.
  7. Submit an article for the ‘Black Voices’ blog: https://www.ucu.org.uk/black-voices. Please send contributions to Chris Nicholas (cnicholas@ucu.org.uk).
  8. Use our posters:
    Challenging workplace racism – poster 1 [56kb]
    Challenging workplace racism – poster 2 [51kb]
    UCU: challenging workplace racism – leaflet [254kb]
    If you would like hard copies of the posters please contact Martin Whelton .

Branches are also encouraged to raise awareness of the issues raised in the following videos and  we have suggested a number of activities [239kb] for the week to encourage discussion and actions to help further engage members in seeking solutions:

Bullying and stereotyping blocking professorial path for black women

A February 2019 report for UCU says a culture of bullying and stereotyping means black academics have to work harder and employ mentally draining strategies to try and get on.

UCU survey

The survey of 631 black union members working in post-16 education found that:

  • over two-thirds (71%) said they had ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ been subject to bullying and harassment from managers
  • nine out of ten (90%) black staff members report having faced barriers to promotion in colleges and universities.

UCU report finds high levels of discrimination

The experiences of black and minority ethnic staff in further and higher education, Feb 16 [132kb]

The qualitative data from the survey into experiences of UCU’s black members can be found here:

Witness – voice of UCU black members, Feb 17 [824kb]
Witness – voice of UCU black members, Feb 17 [277kb]


Initiated by UCU Black Members’ Standing Committee, our new film ‘witness’ chronicles the lived experiences of UCU black members in post-16 education.

‘witness’ film: worksheet [146kb]
‘witness’ film: what next? [146kb]
‘witness’ film: questions [142kb]

To view the subtitled version please click hereOpens new window.

You can also watch a quick preview of some of the issues raised in the film:

Last updated: 15 January 2020