Relaunch of Black Staff Group

Jul 21st, 2021 | By | Category: Further information
Last year, following the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we took the decision to relaunch the Black Staff Group at UCU. This group is up and running and we have met with the chair to discuss the priorities agreed at the group‘s inaugural meeting.

One focus of our recent discussion was a series of all staff emails circulated in August 2020 by, and in reference to, Ife Kantonna. Although entirely unintentional, the timing and nature of some of these communications created a false impression that Ife’s departure from UCU was linked to concerns being raised about racism facing UCU staff. Moreover, they gave a regrettable and inaccurate sense of the union’s willingness to engage with staff concerns in this regard. 
It has never been the intention of UCU management to silence the views of staff. However, we understand from discussions with Black Staff Group representatives that these events left some staff deeply hurt and feeling that they are not be able to express their concerns to colleagues or managers, and we are sorry for the distress, hurt, and anxiety this caused.
We, along with the rest of the UCU management team, are fully committed to confronting and addressing systemic racism in UCU and beyond, and ensuring that UCU is an inclusive and welcoming environment for all staff.  This means not only establishing effective policies on discrimination and equalities issues, but continually reviewing their actual application to ensure they are working well in practice.   Building better workplaces and communities is a duty we all share.
We are always keen to hear from you about any equality concerns you may have, and staff should be reassured that any concerns raised will be treated seriously. If you would like to raise any issues regarding racism or any other equality issue, you can speak to your line manager or to personnel. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to speak to Jo Grady directly, you can contact Maureen McKenzie to make an appointment; Jo’s door is always open.

 It is only by listening and understanding the concerns and experiences of staff that we can improve our practices as an employer. We look forward to continued work with the group to explore how UCU can ensure all Black staff feel supported within the organisation.

This group is open to all UCU staff who identify as black, and managers are asked to accommodate any staff who wish to attend the group’s meetings.

UCU Black Staff Group is intended to:

1. Help formulate, provide advice and feedback and, where appropriate, participate in UCU’s initiatives to encourage greater diversity.

2. Contribute towards the formulation of key policy and strategy.

3. Provide a networking opportunity for black and minority ethnic staff across the union.

4. Assist in monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of race equality-related policies and procedures (for example, the union’s policy on recruitment).


1. Core membership will be drawn from across the union for individuals who identify themselves as ‘Black’.

2. As and when required, experts from other parts of the union or external guests will be invited to attend to brief the membership on matters of concern/interest.


The Black Staff Group meets once every three months.

The Role of the Chair and Secretary:

1. The Chair will be elected from the membership, or, the members may wish to rotate the Chair for future meetings.

2. The Chair of the group will report annually to the Senior Management Team on any relevant issues.

3. The Secretary will be elected from the membership or, the members may wish to rotate the Secretary for future meetings.

4. The Secretary will work alongside the Chair in drafting the agenda and circulating any relevant papers.

Please feel free to drop Chris Nicholas a line at if you have questions about the meeting.
  • We have used the UCU terminology (see below) and included the name of the group as an agenda item.
*UCU internally uses the term ‘black’ in a political sense to refer to people who are descended, through one or both parents,  from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia (the middle-East to China) and Latin America. It refers to those from a visible minority who have a shared experience of oppression. The word is used to foster a sense of solidarity and empowerment.

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