16 April 2021: The Charity Workers Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are campaigning against racial discrimination targeted at workers at the National Childbirth Trust. Ahead of a parliamentary debate on 19 April about the large racial disparity in maternal mortality in British hospitals, practitioners at the National Childbirth Trust are fighting back against racial discrimination in their workplace.
Practitioners - nearly all of whom are women - with decades of experience are being bullied and intimidated using client feedback. While this affects all practitioners, discriminatory client reviews of black and brown workers are being used by the charity to unfairly target practitioners of colour over months and even years - leaving some feeling suicidal.
The NCT is a national charity with over 750 practitioners, who provide practical and emotional support for expectant and new parents. It is the UK’s largest parenting charity - but relies on a workforce of self-employed practitioners. Their working conditions have deteriorated in recent years.
The CEO of the NCT is Angela McConville, who moved to the charity in 2020 from her previous role as director of the Westway Development Trust. An independent review of the Westway Development Trust found that, under her leadership, the organisation was ‘institutionally racist’, and operated a ‘culture of bullying, indifference and arrogance’. A former director of the organisation resigned after complaining about ‘negativity’ towards the black community from the then chief executive Angela McConville.
Practitioners have come together as members of the IWGB to pressure the NCT into taking meaningful action to tackle racist discrimination, as well as a culture of using client feedback in ‘quality assurance’ procedures to victimise workers. They are calling for the NCT to accept the IWGB as the organisation’s recognised trade union and enter a dialogue to address these issues.
One practitioner, who has endured years of disciplinary processes at the hands of the NCT, said: “They refused to accept my excellent ratings from professional assessors and kept moving the goalposts to keep my license to practice. When I encountered racist clients, they sided with them and did not protect me. Instead they threatened to take away my license to practice. They put so much pressure on me. When I told my 'mentor' I was suicidal she told me not to behave like a child.”
Ajmal Waqif, the IWGB Charity Workers’ Branch BAME officer said: “Charities are supposed to hold themselves to high standards of ethics and social responsibility. However, the IWGB Charity Workers' Branch deals with so many cases where charities have failed to live up to these standards when it comes to the treatment of their own workers.
The NCT’s treatment of our members, and their inability to see the discrimination built into their procedures, shows that when it comes to systemic racism experienced by workers in the sector, many charities still have a very long way to go.
Amidst a growing campaign to examine why black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth, the charity sector must examine its role in these deeply unequal outcomes.”
For more information, contact
We're just one David and there's a lot of Goliaths out there. As such, we rely on dues and donations to do our work - if you can, we'd really appreciate any contributions to our vital work.I'll contribute