UNISON Northern Ireland

Black and Migrant Workers’ Group

Black members in UNISON work to improve equality in the workplace; challenge racism and discrimination and ensure issues affecting Black and Migrant workers remain high on the UNSION agenda. 

Black members have many of the same concerns as other members regarding access to employment, pay, promotion and training. However, racist discrimination can deepen the impact of problems faced in the workplace.

For many, immigration restrictions have a direct impact on life and work here as well. Support around immigration advice can be a lifeline for Migrant Workers. We continue to campaign against unfair immigration legislation.

UNISON’s Black members’ group (known as a self-organised group) campaigns for equality in the workplace and the wider community.

In recent years our regional group has been involved in highlighting the situation for migrants on sponsorship visas, especially in the private care sector, and to challenge exploitation by some unscrupulous employers. We continue to campaign for better access to immigration advice and representation within our own union, and have highlighted issues around access to culturally competent services in mental health for Black members.


Members of our group are also involved in all union activities and in their own branches. Joining UNISON helps you play an active and important role in every aspect of achieving equality in your workplace.

Speak to your local representative if you would like support or advice. 


Black and Migrant Worker members’ role in UNISON

In dealing with discrimination, we support workers not just in formal procedures but by developing effective responses to deeply rooted patterns of discrimination.

Challenging racism in the workplace is crucial to UNISON’s work because no workplace where racism is allowed to flourish can ever be effectively organised.

Equality legislation provides trade unions with the means to hold employers to account, but the principles of equality can only become a reality in our workplaces if we organise around them and place them on the bargaining agenda with employers.

UNISON is committed to increasing its representation and participation of Black people within the union. It is important that there is a visible and vocal presence of the Black and Migrant Worker members’ experience in UNISON. Black members’ self-organised groups (SOGs) work in partnership with other parts of the union to identify and promote our race equality agenda.

There is a whole spectrum of activity that members can be involved in from becoming a workplace contact to sitting on one of UNISON’s national committees.

Joining UNISON is the first step but all members can get involved in working for a fair workplace.

In Northern Ireland the Black and Migrant Workers meet by monthly on zoom, and members stay in touch through e-bulletins and their facebook page.

To get involved in our group, please email n.donnelly@unison.co.uk




Sign up to our Black and Migrant Workers mailing list for campaign updates and to hear about more opportunities to get involved!

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter June 2023

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter Spring 2023

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter January 2023

UNISON Guidance on the EU Settlement Scheme and Settled Status

UNISON has launched guidance for individual EU members and branches on the new settled status requirements for those who wish to continue living in the UK after its exit from the European Union.

Guidance is available below:

Easter Party 2018

On 24th March the UNISON Black and Migrant Workers group held an Easter party for members to come and find out more about the services UNISON can offer as well as signing up new members.

The event was packed full of fun activities including face painting, different traditional dancers, traditional drummers and food. We hope you all enjoyed the party!

You can view photos of the event here

Our Work in 2017

Campaigns and Activities

Race equality and cuts/Million Voices

Members of our group attended various conferences and rallies again this year.
There were many protests / pickets and meetings over proposed health cuts in recent months; members attended regular events such as May Day, International women’s day march, etc. One of our delegates attended the Irish Congress of Trade Union (ICTU) conference in the Republic of Ireland in July.
A member of our committee also received an award as “outstanding new steward” during our regional organising awards ceremony.


Recruiting and organising Black members

The Black and Migrant Workers group (B&MW) had an exciting and busy year with new members joining the group, and some completing their steward training.
The activities organised by the group are based on needs identified through our meetings and reflect the makeup of the Black Members’ membership in our region: Over 99% of Black members in Northern Ireland are migrant workers. This gives the group a slightly different focus than most Black members’ SOG in England or Wales.

Communication and visibility

The group continued to meet bi-monthly and send e-bulletins to all Black and Migrant Workers and to branches in the region after each meeting. The group also put together a report after attending Black Members Conference in January.

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The group was represented at a number of events within Black / Migrant communities throughout the year (e.g. stalls at Onam festival celebrations in September, Horn of Africa Eid Celebration; etc.). Members of the committee have also been very active in organising reception parties to welcome (and sign up!) newly arrived Filipino nurses.

One Day Without Us

On Monday 20th February UNISON members joined the “1 Day Without Us” celebration.
1 Day Without Us was a UK wide initiative that emerged following the EU referendum to celebrate the contribution of migrants. It coincided with UN World Day of Social Justice and was also marked by a mass lobby in Westminster to ensure EU migrants’ rights were not used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.
Locally we had lively stalls in hospitals throughout the region. A delegation also went to a demonstration outside Belfast City Hall under the ICTU banner “Migrants make us richer”.



A delegate from our group represented us at an Anti Racism rally organised in March in London.
Locally we continued to speak out against racism and contact members who have been intimidated / attacked in their homes to try and offer support.
We also continue to have a regular input into the steward training courses to discuss racism, discrimination and raise awareness about issues faced by Black and Migrant Worker members. 

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Brexit follow up

The group was involved in a coalition looking at the effect of Brexit on migrant workers living here. This led to a petition asking the Irish Government to allow access to Irish citizenship for people with permanent right reside & Indefinite Leave in NI.
Currently while local people can opt for Irish or British citizenship, this option is not open to migrants who need to go down the citizenship route.
 “We firmly believe in the principle of equality before the Law and non-discrimination under the Good Friday Agreement and applicable international human rights law; and accordingly demand that anyone who acquired permanent residency or Indefinite Leave to Remain in NI has an equal right to Irish citizenship, as Irish or British nationals born in NI.”

International English Language Test System (IELTS)

Our group had been campaigning for years -submitting motions to UNISON conferences and sending petitions / letters to the NMC- for a change in the criteria used to measure the level of English of overseas applicants. The IELTS English exam (where nurses need to score 7 out of 9 in all sections of the test) seemed a colossal hurdle. We campaigned to lower / average out the score needed and / or to allow access to a different, more tailored test such as the Occupational English Test (OET).
The announcement by the NMC that it would accept OET as well as IELTS from November 1st was therefore a very welcome news for the group!

Immigration advice clinic

Our region continues to give members (and refugees / asylum seekers) access to monthly immigration advice clinics with an immigration solicitor. This is a vital service for our members; it also contributes a great deal to making us very visible in the community voluntary sector and with organisations dealing with migrants.

English classes

Similarly, our English classes remain very successful and contribute towards making us stand out as a union providing support for Black and Migrant Workers. The IELTS preparation class is hugely popular and has now reached full capacity. 

Other activities linked to UNISON objectives and priorities for 2017
Supporting Refugees

Our region continued to support refugees and asylum seekers through a number of initiatives.
Firstly our English IELTS classes and our immigration advice clinics are open to referrals from refugee support organisations. This has allowed us to develop closer contacts with a number of asylum seekers who came from a medical background and will hopefully be able to work in the health sector eventually (and join UNISON). Some of the students are nurses but others are also doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, etc; all are trying to find their way through the many loops and hurdles that will face them before being allowed to practice their profession in Northern Ireland.
In July, this lead to a scoping exercise that was organised with the Department of Health and HR from the Belfast Trust inviting those with qualifications in medicine, nursing and allied health to an information session in one of the Belfast hospitals. New opportunities for placement, local training, volunteering and adaptation courses are currently being explored by UNISON and Trust HR.
The B&MW group was also involved in an event organised with the education team about Refugees at home and abroad. The event gave an opportunity for the refugees attending the English class to join the workshop and establish contact with branch activists who were at the event.

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End DP

Last winter our group was involved in supporting organisations and asylum seekers asking the Irish government to scrap the Direct Provision system in place in the South of Ireland which puts asylum seekers in quasi detention conditions.
UNISON’s B&MW committee was key in getting the Irish Trade Unions to condemn that practice at one of the ICTU’s annual conference, and the group remains involved in campaigning against this appalling situation in the South.
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Planned future activities

The group is planning an event around Easter next year with members and their families. Our group has not organised any celebration event for all B&MW members in the region for some time and the group feels that it would help bring people together and identify new activists.
Members of the committee are busy organising further reception parties for newly recruited overseas nurses in the different Health Trusts. This will be a feature of group activities for next year and will hopefully be a source of new people for our committee as well.
The English classes will need to be revisited next year to reflect the changes announced by the NMC.
The group is also sad to lose one of our active members who had brought fantastic new energy to our group. Natalie is moving to the Republic of Ireland and although we are delighted for her and wish her all the best, we are all sad to see her go. 
The group will continue its anti racism work within the union, especially through its input into the steward training courses.


Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter June 2023

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter Spring 2023

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter January 2023

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter Spring 2021

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter June 2020

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter January - February 2018

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter March - April 2018

Black and Migrant Workers Newsletter May - June 2018