Brendan Barber tells Black Workers’ Conference the government is to blame for lack of opportunities for young black people


The TUC will today launch the new 18:18 union fundraising campaign for the Stephen Lawrence Trust when Doreen Lawrence addresses its Black Workers’ Conference.

The 18:18 campaign, launched last year 18 years on from the death of Stephen Lawrence, who was 18 when he was murdered, will help to build on the work of the Stephen Lawrence Trust in improving the skills and employability of socially-disadvantaged black teenagers and young adults.

Concerns about the under-representation of young black people in apprenticeship schemes and the labour market will be key topics for debate at the conference, which takes place at TUC headquarters in central London, starting today and continuing until Sunday lunchtime.

Keynote speakers at the conference include Doreen Lawrence, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.

Addressing the delegates on Friday afternoon, Doreen Lawrence will say: “It’s hard to believe that it is 19 years since the racist murder of my son Stephen and 14 years since I founded the Trust set up in Stephen’s name and memory. It is even harder accept that nearly two decades on we are still struggling with the same issues of race inequality and injustice.

“In 2012 young black people can anticipate poorer education outcomes, poorer life chances, and being black and male has a more negative impact on levels of numeracy than having a learning disability. As we use Stephen’s name to wedge open the door of opportunity for others and challenge injustice, it means that although his life was lost, it wasn’t wasted.

“We desperately need the financial support of our friends and partners if we are to continue with the work associated with Stephen’s legacy. This is to assist ambitious young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the professions of architecture, finance and law. With the generous support of TUC members we will be able to continue to fulfil Stephen’s legacy.”

Making his first conference speech since announcing he is to retire at the end of the year, Brendan Barber will say: “Much progress has been made since I first addressed this conference in the 1990s. But the recession and recovery-sapping austerity measures are putting a severe strain on the services that many communities rely upon.

“Worse still is the catastrophic jobs crisis facing young black people. The unemployment rate for black youngsters has doubled in the past three years and more than half of all young black men who want work can’t get a job. This is not just a shocking story of hopes denied and talents wasted, nor just a terrible indictment of the government’s policies – it is a scandal that shames modern Britain.

“As we saw during last year’s riots, the lack of opportunities for young black people – indeed all our young people – is a ticking time bomb for our society. The government must get serious about tackling youth unemployment. We need proper back-to-work schemes and a more inclusive approach to apprenticeships. We also need to support the thousands of voluntary organisations across the UK that support young black people into work, many of whom are facing funding cuts.

“That is why I am today launching the 18:18 fundraising campaign on behalf of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. It’s an organisation that does some really excellent work. In these tough times for the voluntary sector, it’s vital that the union movement offers all the support it can to secure the Trust’s long term future.”


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