Racism at Work

Another common theme throughout our oral history recordings was racism in the workplace. Some people shared experiences that took place during the recruitment process and others had stories about incidents once they had been employed. Raj shared an example of when speaking up can make a difference. Chris, a Caseworker for people suffering discrimination in the workplace also raised concerns about the current system, particularly increased tribunal fees.

Sanjay experienced racism when applying for a new job. ”I passed the interview
but I was told to stay behind after all the candidates had gone. It was a large chemical company. But during the 70’s, on the industrial floor, other than white skin, was not acceptable. So the interviewer was very frank with me and said either you change your career or if you would like to carry on your career, you might be better placed in India.” Sanjay P (Interviewed on 31 May 2017)

Rekha received abuse from customers regularly due to her accent. “…because of my
accent, I used to get a lot of grief from the customers. I received comments like if I was
one of you I would get the money. They would ask me to give the phone to someone who could speak English?  It used to upset me.” Rekha Bapodra (Interviewed on 10 May 2017)

More positively, Pratima explained that she felt supported by her line Managers. “If they hear anyone abusing or telling us anything, they would just come and help us out.” Pratima Dattani (Interviewed 17 February 2017)

Raj made a complaint when he did not receive a promotion that he felt he was more qualified for than the selected candidate. His determination to stand up for himself resulted in his employer changing their mind and he later rightfully received the promotion he was qualified for. “I was the only experienced person at one point there. They had given me the senior post and then they chose another one for the permanent job. I told them, this is wrong because that lady they promoted her. She didn’t have that much experience. They took me seriously. And then I got the job!” Raj P (Interviewed 29 March 2017)

Chris has noticed that recently increased tribunal fees have deterred employees with discrimination cases and unfair dismissal claims from seeking justice. “Another experience I have is, because of [Employment Tribunal] fees now, less people are putting in claims.” Christopher Fray (Interviewed 11 April 2017)