Unison Black Members’ Conference votes to fight for free movement

Posted: 29 January 2019

Congratulations to Unison’s Black Members’ group, whose conference last week voted through strong policy to fight for free movement and migrant rights, and to push for a policy shift in Labour to support the same. You can read the policy below.

Defending free movement of people and immigrant rights

Conference notes:

  1. The rights of immigrants has become decisive to the direction of our society.
  2. Unison’s 2018 NDC rightly adopted a motion on Brexit from the National Executive Council that committed the union to defending the free movement of people to live, work, study and join their families in Britain;
  3. The Brexit referendum was dominated heavily by racist scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, and increased the level of racist attacks and abuse;
  4. Elsewhere in Europe, in response to increasing open violence of anti-immigrant nationalism, migrants are unionising, striking and leading mass demonstrations; their repeated demands centre on the free movement of people, ending racism, opening the ports and borders, and regularisation for migrant workers and families.
  5. The Labour Party, while supporting continued membership of the EU Customs Union and seeking the preserve the free movement of goods, services and capital with the EU, has committed to ending the free movement of people.

Conference further notes:

  1. The Windrush scandal has highlighted the inhumanity and racism of the Government’s Hostile Environment policy toward immigrants, and the racist basis of Britain’s immigration legislation. The discriminatory ‘patriality’ principle of the 1968 and 1971 Immigration Acts consciously put in place to protect white people whilst rights for British commonwealth citizens in general were destroyed;
  2. Exposure has opened up an opportunity to challenge the historic injustice afresh, and to unite our communities from commonwealth, former colonies and the rest of the world, whether we are newly settling or long-established in Britain;
  3. The Government’s Windrush Scheme excludes those descendants and close family members of the Windrush generation who came to the UK after 1 January 1973, and the Movement for Justice has established a Widen Windrush campaign to reverse this injustice and is submitting a series of cases to challenge the racial discrimination. The campaign was launched at a meeting in the House of Commons on 17th July, hosted by Janet Daby MP and supported by David Lammy MP, Eleanor Smith MP and Baroness Hamwee;

Conference believes that:

  1. The opportunity and duty before us is two-fold: putting a stop to the ongoing injustice of previous immigration laws which continue to blight the lives of Windrush generations and their families; and to stop the new injustice taking place with Brexit of ending free movement of people. We must take strong action;
  2. The Government’s Brexit plans, its divisions and the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit threaten greater poverty and increased racism and xenophobia that will especially affect Black and immigrant workers, families and communities;
  3. The Labour Party’s opposition to the free movement of people is a dangerous and unnecessary concession to anti-immigrant bigotry that undermines workers’ rights and human rights.

Conference calls on the National Black Members’ Committee to:

  1. Support and publicise the Widen Windrush campaign and encourage Black members’ and Black members’ groups to take up this issue in branches and regions, and in the wider community; to invite speakers, and bring the legal cases to attention so any member affected can also come forward and potentially join the legal challenge;
  2. Launch a campaign in Unison to defend the free movement of people, on the basis of the motion passed at the NDC in 2018;
  3. Work with Labour Link to seek a reversal of the Labour Party’s opposition to the free movement of people, and to call on the Labour Party to use every opportunity to defeat the Government, as this would force a general election and stop Brexit.