This week, JHL’s immigrant project is participating in a campaign against racism and discrimination. We asked our members about the subject and what help they wanted in the face of racism and discrimination.
While wages and working conditions are improving, it is important to note that there are other areas that we need to improve. One way or another, many employees have experienced discrimination because of their language, mode of dressing, age, religion or appearance (skin tone).
“It happened to me and my co-workers”.
“The manager used discriminative words and constantly put me down at work.”
“I’ve experienced discrimination and bullying from a co-worker.”
“I was asked to take a child placed in quarantine to a relative´s or friend’s house and go to work placement. I had to explain the rules/regulations of quarantine to the supervisor and defend myself for approval to stay with the child and work from home. I was asked to submit the information from the officials regarding the quarantine so they could believe me even though the information had not been shared with us at the start. This made me very upset and anxious every time I got a call or email from my supervisor.”
While most people may think discrimination is black and white, in most cases it is difficult to prove, because it may be hidden or otherwise not as explained in the law.
“I would want the employers to know that discrimination does not only happen according to the listed or described forms of racism or discrimination by law. There is also perceived discrimination and perceived racism. Perceived discrimination is when individuals themselves perceive or experience discrimination, which may include events or situations that are not discriminatory according to the law or other definitions. Perceived racism is when an individual has not only experienced objective racism but also perceived other people’s feelings and intentions.”
Our subject experts thought or said racism and discrimination is bad because….
“It hinders the development of the well-being of society, and provides a basis for the development of hatred, racism and violence.”
“It affects people and the work environment. It limits a person’s growth in the workplace.”
“It fragments society.”
“It causes all levels of grief in a person who suffers from discrimination.”
” It takes a toll on one’s mental health and de-humanises a person.”
“It affects the work dynamics, putting a strain in the relationship between the employer and employee. It affects the motivation, self-esteem and emotional well-being of the employees. If not taken care of, these can have other health-related effects on the employees. For example, sadness, anger or embarrassment caused by racism or discrimination can cause depression or high blood pressure. These then affect the employee’s work because they take time off work. The burden is then taken by the social and health care to help those affected.”
When discrimination and racism occur, we see that it affects not just the individual but society. What next? The experts gave some solutions.
“I want to intervene indiscriminately.”
“When I face racism, I want to tell people it’s wrong and encourage them to get to know the different cultures of the world.”
“Help and support”
“The person should be confronted; I should not be advised to change jobs”
“Being aware of the various ways in which this happens can help them stop certain ways of communication. Also, cultural awareness forums should be conducted by people of different cultural backgrounds in various workplaces, as these people are best placed to explain these various forms of racism or discrimination. This can also be done through other forms of communication that can be made available to all people in society, in many different languages. Awareness is key.”
One thing is for sure, when everyone is given equal opportunities to show their skills and potential, an employer will be able to benefit from the maximum full potential of all its employees.
As a union, we have an important role to play in helping our members feel safe and valued in the workplace. We must fight the injustices faced by people with an immigrant background.
Although the union has taken an active role in ensuring better working conditions for employees, those facing racism and discrimination also hope that the union will play a more active role in ensuring that employers are following the measures they have put in place to fight discrimination and racism.
As an individual, we encourage you to take an active role in combating prejudice, discrimination and racism.