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Trevor Phillips demands end to ethnic employment gap

New Picture (1)Equalities supremo Trevor Phillips waded into the row over the government’s failure to tackle the huge gap between the employment rates of ethnic minorities and white people today

By Lester Holloway, in Bournemouth

Speaking at a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Bournemouth today,Phillips backed IqbalWahhab, chairman of the government’s Ethnic Minority Employment Taskforce.  Wahhab has threatened to resign over Labour’s failure to address the “ethnic penalty.”

As we reported last week, Wahhab has publicly protested over employment ministers decisions to axe initiatives aimed at tackling the gap between the percentage of working-age ethnic minorities in employment, and their white counterparts. Overall, ethnic minorities are 16% behind white workers, indicating widespread race discrimination in the job market.

Wahhab said that he would resign his position unless ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions came up with new programmes to address the deficit, especially as new evidence suggests the gap is widening in the recession, as bosses disproportionately fire black and Asian workers.

But speaking today at an Equality and Human Rights Commission event, the EHRC chairman Phillips said that he “supported” Wahhab, who was “completely right” to make his criticisms of government. Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair promised in 2003 that the ethnic employment gap would be eradicated in ten years,  but six years on there has hardly been any change.

Phillips said: “Iqbal Wahhab has not resigned yet, but we are actually members of that group and support him in what he is saying. We are working with the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions] to make sure that there is quicker and more obvious progress on this issue than there has been.

I think that there are a lot of issues involved here. I think Iqbal’s completely right to be impatient. We are impatient, but we have to… basically you’ve got to get down to the practical work. We are now, for example, producing quarterly reports alongside the DWP, about the impact of the recession on different equality groups, which I think is very important in spurring government to change.

But the implication of your question, I think we agree with. We need better, quicker progress.”

A video of the debate will be posted here, as soon as a strong-enough signal can be found to download a video!

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