Letter: Hard-won justice for black Britons

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report about discrimination on London Underground ('Tube staff win discrimination award,' 6 April), includes an allegation that the men involved received little support from their union. Given the importance of this case, I think it is proper that the record is put right.

Of the 20 victimised staff, 13 were members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT). Unfortunately, it appears that initially the individuals chose to seek advice from other agencies.

This concerns RMT because it suggests that some members do not have enough confidence in the union's own structures to ask for help on race-related issues. We have taken advice on this from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and are correcting matters.

RMT's record on equal opportunities is still excellent. It is ironic that the RMT (NUR) was involved in a long dispute with the Underground management in 1989, including taking strike action, because we were concerned that changes management wanted in the promotions arrangements would disadvantage black employees. Our position has subsequently been

vindicated.

The union first learnt that a claim was being made to an industrial tribunal on behalf of 20 individuals by other organisations through reports in the media. RMT's solicitors contacted those organisations offering assistance, but the agencies declined to disclose the identity of RMT members involved on the grounds of 'client confidentiality'. However, we did later receive a request from the CRE for urgent financial assistance.

At this stage, the CRE had still not given the union information on RMT members who were involved in the claim, and other information subsequently requested was not forthcoming.

One of the disappointing aspects of this whole episode was that, despite RMT's solicitors working hard to encourage co-operation between the parties, little was forthcoming.

RMT is pleased that members with a genuine grievance have received some recognition. That we did not play a full part in reaching this settlement is regretted, but it was not from any lack of commitment or effort on our part.

Yours sincerely,

JAMES KNAPP

General Secretary

National Union of Rail, Maritime

& Transport Workers

London, NW1

7 April

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