Equality and Human Rights Commission finds almost half of ethnic minorities feel racism goes unchecked within industry

Ethnic minorities are being turned off the construction industry by racist “banter” and perceived discrimination, according to an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Race Discrimination in the Construction Industry inquiry, published today, found that 47% of ethnic minorities feel that racist behaviour was likely to go unchecked within the construction industry.

Four in 10 ethnic minorities said they felt that the industry discriminated against ethnic minorities in its employment practices.

The commission said that while the majority of witnesses felt that overt racism had declined in recent years, there was evidence that “racist banter” was still tolerated in pockets of the industry.

Although the inquiry praised the industry for taking steps to improve its diversity, it must do more to attract non-white workers. Ethnic minorities make up only 3.3% of the construction workforce, compared to a cross-industry average of 7.9%.

Kay Allen, equality and human rights commissioner, said: “There are many positive initiatives and examples of good practice designed to increase representation. However, clearly there is more that needs to be done.”

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, called for a zero tolerance approach to racism to be adopted. He said: “It is important to note that the commission believes that overt racism has declined in the industry. However they found that pockets of racism remain. This is totally unacceptable. All sides of the industry must come together and stamp out racism once and for all.”

The report makes 31 recommendations for the industry to improve representation of non-white ethnic minotiries, and will liaise with industry bodies, unions and government departments to tackle the issue.