A superb BBC Radio 4 programme today, told the story of how rail worker Asquith Xavier took on the colour bar operated at Euston station by NUR lay officials claiming that all they were doing was operating the ‘closed shop’; Socialist Party members take note:
BBC, 15 July 1966:
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).
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 (discrimination in the workplace was not illegal until an amendment to the Race Relations Act in 1968 -JD).