When is a job not a job?

"The £18,000 council job you can't apply for if you are white" says the Mail today. Wow! A council seems to be breaking the law by using racist hiring practices. Barring people from applying for jobs on the basis of their race is illegal, and has been at least since the Race Relations Act 1976. The Mail has uncovered a genuine scandal here.

Whoops! No it hasn't. Silly me. After telling readers once in the headline and once again in the opening sentence that white people have been barred from applying for a job, the paper surreptitiously withdraws its statement with:
Bristol City has created the management training posts for graduates in an effort to recruit more minority employees.
You might have missed the withdrawal there. See where it says 'management training posts'? A training post is not a job. It's training.  Once these people finish their training, they have to apply for the job on the open market.

In the 1976 Act, exceptions are made for training. If a particular group is under-represented in a particular area - and this includes white people - an employer can offer training to people from those groups to try to redress the balance.

The Mail does know this, because it explains in the very final sentence that "The Race Relations Act 1976 states that if a racial group is under-represented councils can offer training to individuals from that group." And yet despite knowing that it is talking about avdertising a training programme and not a job, which would be illegal, the paper still tells its readers that white people cannot apply for jobs.

Isn't that lying?

This is part of what's so disappointing about the Mail. It could have been totally up front about these positions being training posts and focused on the fairness or not of allowing training to be offered to specific ethnic groups, and it would have had a point, even if it's one I might not necessarily agree with. We could debate why you only ever see ethnic minorities specified in these sorts of story (here's a hint: could be that white people are never under-represented in these kinds of job). The paper could have opened up a debate on what is actually happening.

That applies to so much of what the Mail reports on, from immigration to crime to Health and Safety legislation and on and on and on. The paper could approach issues from a far more sensible perspective, but chooses to exaggerate and lie instead. When those lies and exaggerations extend to how much of a wonderful and unfair advantage ethnic minorities and other out-groups get, it's particularly nasty, and so are the potential consequences. That's when the paper stops being just disappointing and starts being potentially dangerous.

Never mind though.  Newspaper editors have to persuade readers to hand over their money in the rain, which is clearly the more important consideration.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

My day was going well until you made me angry with that pile of horse-shit, spewed forth from the Fail's mouth.

Tom Evans said...

I'm not sure about this one.

I agree they should have explained the situation more accurately, but on the other hand it is clearly established in employment law that how the employer describes the relationship is not binding, and a court or tribunal can look behind the description to establish the true relationship.

A position which pays £18k sounds more like a job than the kind of training this exemption was intended for.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

The honest way to look at whether these training posts stretch the definition too far would be to ask that question openly. Report that the Council has advertised for two training posts, but that these seem to be far closer to actual jobs than you would expect. Then argue that you (or rather, your paper) thinks that the Council is doing this to exploit a loophole to discriminate against white people.

The trouble is, reporting the story that way would beg too many questions. How often do public and private organisations advertise training posts that might as well be called jobs? Is this practice effectively exploiting the people who apply for them by making them carry out high-level tasks for a fraction of the salary a Manager would get paid? Do all such training posts specify ethnic minorities only need apply? Is this issue less about race and discrimination than it is about worker exploitation? Does the paper generally have a problem with recruiting people for fixed terms, paying them a lower wage and calling them training posts, or is it only when employers do this and then specify that only non-white people can apply? If that's the case, why call them 'jobs' and not training posts?

In calling the posts 'jobs' right from the outset, the Mail skirts all these difficult questions at the same time as co-opting the reader into its conclusion about whether they are too close to being actual jobs without ever having to make that argument. It assumes its conclusion. In that respect, it becomes propaganda, in that it disguises an attempt to persuade as merely information.

On top of that, it can't have escaped the journalist's attention that excluding ethnic minorities from applying for actual jobs is illegal. The headline, whether dreamed up by the journo or a sub, is playing on this knowledge. So is the second mention of 'job'. It is, I think, designed to create outrage at the concept of there being one rule for white people and one for everyone else. But this is just standard Daily Mail practice.