Reported by Holyrood – the news we share raises awareness of equality issues being reported in the media.
News emerged last month that black people are up to four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people.
Now, a survey by Unison Scotland, seen by Holyrood, reveals how all this has left many of Scotland’s black and ethnic minority (BAME) health and care workers feeling panicked and vulnerable.
It paints a picture of workers who feel less empowered than many of their white counterparts and less able to voice their worries.
With a second wave predicted, black workers and Unison stress that policy changes must be made now.
The survey, completed in May, draws on responses from 2,000 Unison Scotland members, predominantly health and social care workers, one tenth of whom were BAME workers.
It finds that black workers are more fearful of infection than other workers, more concerned about access to PPE, more worried about onward infection to family, less likely to get sick pay, more anxious about struggling to pay bills as a result of COVID infection and more fearful of losing their job.
In spite of higher anxiety about infection, black workers are less likely to raise a safety issue at work with their employers (two thirds of all workers have done so, compared to only half of black workers) and less likely to escalate it to senior management. Unison suggests that “this difference suggests something deters black workers from speaking out about those fears”. Another finding is that BAME workers are more likely to fear reprisals after making complaints.
And black staff are less likely to seek union support over safety concerns, which Peter Hunter, head of organising for Unison Scotland, describes as “a worrying revelation that demands a swift and sustained response”.
Black workers are more likely to be employed in the private sector, particularly in residential care, than by the NHS or councils, and are typically overrepresented in what Unison describes as “lower paid, insecure roles”.
More than a quarter (27.5 per cent) said they would lose money if they were off sick, compared to 21.2 per cent across the survey as a whole.
Black workers are less likely to get full pay while absent with illness than the population as a whole and nine per cent report the loss of all pay when on sick leave, compared to 3.3 per cent for all workers.
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