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1966: Euston staff 'colour bar' ended
A West Indian refused a job at Euston Station will now be employed there after managers overturned a ban on black workers.

Two months ago Asquith Xavier, a train guard from Dominica, was refused a transfer from Marylebone Station to Euston because of his colour.

The new job would have meant a pay increase of around 10 a week for Mr Xavier who started work for British Railways (BR) as a porter 10 years ago.

He was informed about his rejection and the reason for it in a letter from Euston's local staff committee whose members belong to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR).

We are going to urge the government to conduct a full and independent inquiry into discrimination throughout British Rail
Jeff Crawford, West Indian Standing Conference
BR does not have to abide by staff committees' recommendations on appointments but they are very influential.

However, at a news conference on Friday BR spokesman Leslie Leppington said the colour bar at Euston Station had now been ended and Mr Xavier would be given a job.

However, Mr Leppington insisted the ban - rumoured to have been in place for 12 years - had not been a "real" colour bar.

He said it had been instigated by the workers out of a desire to protect their jobs and had never been management policy.

"If we had wanted to impose a real colour bar we would not have done it this way.

"We would have found some excuse to show he was not suitable for the job, wouldn't we?" Mr Leppington said.

Mr Xavier, 44, is currently off work due to ill health and was not at the news conference.

But afterwards the secretary of the West Indian Standing Conference, Jeff Crawford, said they would be calling for the government to take action.

"We are going to urge the government to conduct a full and independent inquiry into discrimination throughout British Rail - to find out the extent of the problem, the cause and effect and the solution," Mr Crawford said.

Similar bans to that ended at Euston are reported to be in force at other London stations including Camden and Broad Street.

But under current law the government's options to curb them are limited.

The Race Relations Act was passed last year but contains only measures to combat racial discrimination in public places such as hotels and pubs.

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Jeff Crawford, West Indian Standing Conference spokesman
A leading West Indian group is calling for an investigation into BR



In Context
Racial discrimination in various forms was a feature of everyday life for many Commonwealth immigrants who had been invited to Britain in the early 1950s and 1960s to fill labour shortages.

Discrimination in the workplace did not begin to be tackled until an amendment to the Race Relations Act in 1968.

However, effective measures were not put in place until the 1976 Race Relations Act which set up the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

The CRE had the power to force companies and other bodies to comply with the Act.

In spite of attempts by various governments to curb immigration the number of people from Commonwealth countries in Britain continued to climb over the years.

The Census in 2001 showed 4.6 million people living in the UK were from an ethnic minority, or 7.9% of the population.

Stories From 15 Jul


 
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