DUDLEY Council has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations by staff that it is institutionally racist.

The two biggest unions at the council have lodged a joint grievance after three Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members were suspended by the council within two weeks and face gross misconduct hearings.

The unions say the disciplinary action is disproportionate and ‘indicative of the unhealthy patterns of behaviour displayed towards BAME workers.’

The joint grievance by the Unite and Unison branches also alleges BAME members face discrimination in terms of job progression and promotion.

The collective grievance does not name individuals, or give specific details, but it highlights ethnically black members of staff, including three male and two female with disabilities.

“We believe that there is evidence of institutionalised/systemic racism over the years in the Council.”

It gives the following examples:

• Selection for the Council’s first TORCH (leadership development) programme

• The Council’s record on recruitment and appointment of BAME applicants

• Disproportionate adverse treatment of BAME workers, particularly of black males, in the disciplinary process

• Underrepresentation of BAME workers in certain service areas

The unions say evidence has been provided to the council over many years but a 2019 audit on equality highlighted systemic failures.

On the disciplinary cases, the unions say: “We believe that a white employee would not be treated in this manner in similar circumstances and would receive more favourable and less harsh treatment.

“We believe suspension would not be invoked for a white employee in similar circumstances nor that the scale of the allegations would be as severe in similar circumstances.”

They claim the disciplinary action is ‘ongoing evidence of systemic and institutionalised racism’ and have demanded an urgent, external investigation.

“The joint unions believe that Black lives Matter. The Council should share this view and act upon it.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said: “We have received a formal notification of some concerns and will now carry out an independent enquiry and report and act on any findings transparently.

“We very much pride ourselves on being an equal, diverse and inclusive employer with 11 per cent of our workforce from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

“This is absolutely vital to a successful modern workplace, and earlier this year we commissioned an independent study to help us strengthen this approach.

“From that we have developed a robust plan to continue to develop equality and diversity both at every level of our workforce and in the policies implemented by this authority.”