Lambeth Council has a race problem, and we need them to take it seriously!

Black/BME staff face harsher working conditions, get lower pay and are more likely to be disciplined or made redundant!

Are you affected? Does this bother you? Then read on….


The Council has admitted there is a problem with institutional racism, as staff at the top of the scales are overwhelmingly white, despite the workforce as a whole being 59% black and minority ethnic (BME). The latest figures that UNISON have seen is that all but one of the top 25 senior managers are white. Once you get to grades with wages of £40,000 and above, posts are more and more disproportionately filled by white staff. Black/BME staff have very little opportunity of career progression.


Human Resources have also admitted that while 46% of job applications are from people from a BME background, only 36% of people appointed are BME. On the other hand while 25% of applications are from white people, 34% of people appointed are white.

This very significant statistical difference between the recruitment of white and BME staff means that those at the top are white and earn more money, and most BME staff are much lower down the payscale.  We have all noticed that the Council is becoming a lot more white, while at the same time very many black/BME staff have been made redundant.

The fact that the latest restructure will be cutting lower paid posts while increasing higher paid posts shows two things –

Firstly the extent of the issue of institutional racism with Lambeth Council,

Secondly that even in a time of austerity, restructures continue to benefit higher paid managers at the expense of lower paid staff.

Flexible working

A number of Black staff are aware that the application of flexible working in the Civic Centre isn’t being done fairly. Teams which predominantly BME/black are being given far stricter rules and micro management over flexible working, where they can ‘hot desk’, and in providing reasonable adjustments for Black and BME Disabled staff in particular.  Whereas white staff are having a far better experience of flexible working.

Head in the sand?

UNISON has raised these issues at senior levels and the response has been shocking!

Management have refused to acknowledge the racism that staff are experiencing.

Management have refused to permit Black staff to meet to give each other support.

Management have refused to permit to permission for an online petition to Councillors (on the Intranet) to challenge (in)flexible working and racist management practice.

That will not stop us from fighting against racism and injustice! Many staff have now started signing a paper petition. All staff (BME and white) who are committed to equality can sign this petition. 

Whilst there is acknowledgement of issues around pay and grades for BME staff and ‘unconscious bias’ training for recruitment – the problems run much deeper.

When one UNISON convenor raised these concerns they were told that they were ‘inciting racial hatred’! Not a very good approach to tackling concerns raised by Black members of staff!

UNISON demands answers and action be taken. Unison wants immediate action to challenge the growing experience of racism at work and a clear commitment by the Council at the highest levels to address BME staff concerns.

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