Bristol City Council has banned white people from applying for an £18,000-a-year traineeship because it wants to boost staff diversity.
The two-year scheme is only open to candidates from black or ethnic minority backgrounds because the “normal recruitment process was not rectifying” under-representation, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
The authority said the programme, which takes on two people a year, is lawful under race relations legislation because it is only a traineeship and does not guarantee a job at the end of it.
The graduate training scheme is now in its third year and annually offers two candidates a two-year placement with the council and pays them £18,000 each a year.
The authority has 9,000 employees, of which 8,370 are white and 630, or 7%, are from ethnic minorities. Because 12% of Bristol residents come from minority backgrounds, the council has begun searching for more employees to redress this imbalance.
Conservative MP Philip Davies told the Telegraph that Bristol was “pushing the boundaries” of what the law was intended to do. “They should be offering all positions to the best person and that should be open to everyone equally,” he said. “It is the kind of political correctness that builds up resentment that would not otherwise exist.”
But James Easey, a spokesman for the council, said the training scheme was started because of the marked under-representation of ethnic minority people in the council’s workforce.
“The normal recruitment process was not rectifying this unacceptably low trend so there was a strong case for this small positive recruitment traineeship for two ethnic minority graduates a year,” he said. “We have a workforce of more than 9,000 employees, excluding school staff, so this is a small training programme.
“Graduates from any ethnic background are open to apply for the national graduate local government programme that we recruit from every year – we have just recruited two graduates in this way.”
This form of positive discrimination is illegal – employers can only, in certain circumstances, use ‘positive action’, which helps or encourages a candidate from a particular group to apply.