Network Rail has just published its ethnicity pay gap report for 2020. The results are a bit better than Network Rail's first report last year but still show big problems.
The ethnicity pay gap is the difference in the average hourly rate of pay for workers from black and ethnic minorities compared to white workers. This year, Network Rail's median pay gap is 5%, down 2.3% on last year, but still higher than the UK average of 2.3%.
One of the main reasons for this year's modest improvement is that there are slightly more BME workers in the top two pay quartiles this year (those paid over £22.82 p/h). Network Rail notes in this report that if BME workers were more widely represented in lower paid grades then the ethnicity pay gap would be worse.
Just like last year, the biggest problem revealed by the report is that BME workers are under-represented in operational and maintenance roles where BME workers make up only 5.6% of the workforce. This is very poor considering that BME people are 13% of the population.
Despite all the current challenges, the railway is still one of the few places where working class people can get relatively secure, well-paid and unionised jobs. These jobs are supposed to be open to all people within our class. In the economy as a whole, BME workers are concentrated in low paid jobs and are 47% more likely to be on zero-hours contracts in the gig economy compared to white people. Network Rail must challenge itself to make depots and signal boxes more representative and inclusive of diverse working-class communities; it needs to look at its recruitment practices.
The unions must challenge themselves too. Is there subtle discrimination in our workplaces that contributes to BME workers being under-represented? What can we do about it?