Racism Is Still Alive and Well in the Construction Industry, 50 Years after the Uk’s Race Relations Act
Written by Denise Courtney
The truth is, we’re making slow progress, racial discrimination in construction industry is rife. Well, that was the finding of a report commissioned by the Construction Industry Training Board on the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the industry in 2014. The findings, published made for shocking reading. It stated that the construction workforce was only 1.9% black and Asian, compared with 6.4% of the working population as a whole – more than 70% fewer black and Asian workers than the UK industry average.
There’s been some progress since 1965, no longer would signs of No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs be allowed, but focusing on individual prejudice has avoided tackling endemic systematic racism, leaving significant inequalities in the UK and aboard
The survey proved that there is still much work to be done within the industry in order to attract the very best talent.
A painting contractor based in New England has been ordered to pay two former employees more than $1.5m each by a court in New Haven, Connecticut. The court ruled that the company had discriminated against the men on racial grounds.
The lawsuit, against Safety Marking alleged that Yosif Bakhit, a Sudanese-American, and Kiyada Miles, an African-American, were subject to “a pattern of abuse” for years, from racial insults and slurs to being passed over for promotions in favour of less experienced white employees.
There have been many cases both in the UK and aboard, the evidence is overwhelming, just do a search on Google, the problem is most people suffer in silence.
Many people get attracted to the lucrative payments that usually accompany working in the UK and US. The need to explore what is beyond their boundaries is so tempting that one will use any means and any chance they get to ensure that they secure themselves a better paying job which is mostly found in the construction industry. However, their arrival is mostly characterized by hostility from the locals making their stay unbearable. In addition, proper recruitment practices in some cases have not been put in place to ensure that ethnic minorities are treated well.
The need for a diverse workforce in the construction industry by most governments is seen as a bid to fill the gap of an aging workforce. Many organisations have already become reliant on foreign construction laborers who are hungry for opportunities to further their careers.
Despite various measures and policies put in place to prevent or minimize racial discrimination, studies have shown that although the makeup of the population in the construction industry is in the process of changing, the picture still being painted is that the industry is still dominated by white people instead of having multicultural diversity throughout.
Lewis Iwu, Director of the Fair Education Alliancec Recently Stated That ‘at Some Companies the Only Bme People Are the Ones Who Let You in the Door.’
Noticeable issues of racial discrimination which can be attested by ethnic minorities who comprise of blacks and people of Asian origin today are that most contractors and consultants are white with the stakeholders who are deemed to have stronger networks and connections despite the fact that there are equally qualified ethnic minority workers. This can be attributed to the fact that it will take a while for you to earn people’s trust which is hard, prejudice and stereotypes considered.
Strategic roles are also given to white colleagues and when there are opportunities for leadership roles, priority is given to the white counterparts despite the presence of more qualified Ethnic Minorities who are willing to avail themselves for the role. Another challenge is that even if an ethnic minority gets this position, their subordinates find it hard to take instructions from them making it hard for them to accomplish their tasks and achieve the set targets.
It is a common belief that there is power in a name and in most cases Ethnic Minorities will find themselves adopting English names just to make them seem white. Other instances of discrimination are that during submission of reports, the reports from ethnic minorities are criticized more.
Ethnic minorities have turned to the construction project management industry with the hope of building a career in construction to subsequently improve their lives but due to racial discrimination, they find themselves working in the same level for years without being promoted therefore making their lives hard. This can be attributed to a common perception that black people cannot bring anything substantial to the table and should instead be seen digging with a shovel and not in a management level, according to Kwasi Boateng who spoke to Nancy Cavill of Building.co.uk
Even with these cases being minimal today due to the policies put in place to see to it that there is equal opportunity for all; Ethnic minorities still suffer from issues of name calling which makes them isolate themselves from the rest of the workforce according to a report by the Equality and Human Rights commission.
A State of Racism Exists Between Some of the Citizens of the United Kingdom, Studies Taken by the BBC in 2014 and 2015 Claim Racism Is on the Rise in the Uk with More than One Third Actually Admitting They Are Racially Prejudiced.
EM workers are reported to limit their contact with those from a different cultural or religious background whenever they can with some even missing work due to stress leading to reduced productivity. A finding by Juliet Bourke of Deloitte.com found that apart from racial jokes and racist gestures, ethnic minorities are in some cases denied time off to attend to religious or cultural ceremonies. A plus here is that this group is however satisfied with the multicultural working environment. “Why not take a legal action?” One may ask. This has been in the minds of many but the fear of the repercussions makes them cower and tolerate the discriminatory treatment. Coupled with that, low status workers with limited skills fear that they will be exposed to adverse working conditions.
Due to the plight of these workers, construction management organizations have come up with strategies that will see an improved working condition for all and key among them include;
- A review of the current legislations which have been put in place to safeguard ethnic minority workers against discrimination in the construction industry. The review will help in deliberating on specific policies aimed at protecting them and to add on what has been overlooked. This involves punishing offenders who are found guilty of harassing or discriminating against members of a different religious or cultural background.
- Implementation of equal treatment of all workers despite their cultural or religious backgrounds. This will see that all the workers will get equal opportunities with regards to leadership chances without considering their backgrounds but their qualifications instead. This will ensure that proper representations of these minorities are achieved.
- Along with the policies of enhancing equal opportunities, policies that ensure that workers have freedom to attend to their various cultural and religious ceremonies have been put in place. This effort shows that their beliefs are acknowledged and appreciated which is motivation enough for them.
- The need for a common language which is understood by all has prompted some constructions organisations to come up with one which will help communicate its policies to the workers effectively without feeling that others have been left out. These organizations therefore encourage its workers to try and learn English which is one of the common international languages in a bid to support workers overcome the language barrier. This will also ensure that all the safety policies are communicated effectively and are understood by the entire workforce.
- Thees construction firms also ensure that it communicates clearly and precisely all the work procedures to ensure that all the tasks are done well and in a safe manner. This includes training and putting in place properly laid out instructions to ensure that the workers understand and know what they are supposed to do.
With these policies and strategies being put in place by companies, noticeable impacts on improved delivery and quality of the services provided by a well coordinated and multicultural population will be realized. Without these policies, poor psychological working conditions which include discrimination and harassment as well as issues of excessive workloads, low job control and long working hours will lead to a worsening mental and physical health of these workers leading to poor delivery. The government and those in leadership positions should be brought on board on these issues of racial discrimination in the construction project management industry if any significant changes are to be realized. They should take responsibility and make it an agenda and not merely regard it as an issue which human resource teams must deal with alone.
Every Single Person Has a Unique, Inherent Worth’
Even if industries put these policies in place, they should strictly follow them up and make deliberate efforts to create an environment that is inclusive of all the people from diverse backgrounds to curb direct and indirect workplace discrimination. Construction is part of a country’s development agenda because without it, infrastructure which is crucial will lag behind making production minimal as it is from construction that they will have roads to transport their goods and services. Companies should therefore understand that diversity is very crucial for their prosperity because it is through it that better business ideas as well as innovations will be realized. This is because a diverse team will bring in diverse perspectives to problems and customer needs will be best understood as they will be in a better position to tailor their products and services to meet those needs.
Do you believe legislative change can end systematic discrimination in Britain and aboard or is racism coded in to the DNA of the nation?