In July 2020, UNISON and UNITE submitted a Collective Grievance to the Council regarding institutionalised and systemic racism and whilst the submission detailed individual cases, this was as illustration and within the wider context of the allegations made of the systemic racism.

Given the scale and nature of our complaint both Trade Unions felt it could not be dealt with impartially nor objectively through an internal investigation and we believed the only way impartiality could be achieved was through the commissioning of an external independent investigation through a competent body such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Council supported this view and commissioned BRAP to undertake a solution focused transparent and independent enquiry that actively engaged stakeholders, as identified by the Council, Trade Unions and the successful contractor.

It was also agreed that a formal written evidence-based report of findings and recommendations would be provided for the Trade Unions including appropriate advice and guidance relating to communications and implementation.

The agreed timescale was for the enquiry to completeand report by June 2021.  In July 2021, the Trade Unions were then informed that the investigation had been extended to allow for further interviews to be conducted and the report would be provided in September 2021. We were then invited to a briefing session with the Chief Executive and Strategic HR on 11th October 2021 which subsequently got rescheduled to 1st November 2021.

The briefing session consisted of The Chief Executive, Strategic HR together with Chief Officers, Heads of Service and Team Manager as well as the Trade Unions and commenced with an introduction to the review from BRAP stating specifically that the review hadn’t been commissioned to look into individual grievances.  There was then a pre-recorded short film of BRAP providing some equality strand breakdown but nothing relevant to the allegations of institutionalised racism.

UNISON and UNITE then asked whether the report was complete and whether the Trade Unions are going to get access to the report and pressed for an exact timescale. We also informed the Chief Executive that our understanding was that BRAP were commissioned following the submission of the Collective Grievance, so if this enquiry didn’t respond to those individual grievancesas well as the wider context, where did that leave the Collective Grievance 15 months on and when will the Trade Unions and members involved have a response to that?  The response was that Trade Unions would receive a copy of the report at the end of November once the Chief Executive had carried out briefing sessions with council staff via the Leadership Forums.

There were further assurances from the council that we're going to work together to deal with the findings.  UNISON and UNITE asked how we can do that without the conclusions, recommendationsand crucially, an understanding of the testimonies given to the enquiry.  We also added, that to effectively tackle institutionalised discrimination, you first have tobuild consensus around acknowledging what the problem isand where does it come from.  The real challenge for organisations is not figuring out what we can we do but rather are we willing to do it.  We added thatmany studies have shown that just because you have a slew of equality and diversity policies in no way means organisations don't discriminate.  The Chief Executive acknowledged that point and said the intent to tackle the problem wouldn't end with this review, but it would be a continuous strategic approach on behalf of the authority. 

We requested a copy of the film and we were denied until the staff briefing sessions have been carried out.

This censorship gives serious cause for concern for the Trade Unions and you the Members not least because not only does there appear to be a deliberate attempt to airbrush out of the public consciousness and narrative the real reason for the independent review, i.e., the review was as a result of a collective grievance alleging institutionalised and systemic racism, but crucially the delay in releasing the report raises questions about how damning the contents of it are.

We believe that 15 months on, BAME Members affected by the issues that led to the collective grievance for institutionalised racism, deserve to know the findings and recommendations of the report.

These concerns are now being taken up with regional and/or national officers of both Unions in attempts to hold the council to account not only for how the investigation and outcomes of the enquiry and the report are being kept hidden from Members, but also in so doing, how the council has breached its own procedures in its handling of the collective grievance.

We will continue to keep you updated on further developments.

Theresa Kelly                       Danny Millward

Unison Branch Secretary      Unite Branch Secretary

Nov 29, 2021