WHITE men could be blocked from jobs and promotions under a so-called equality drive unveiled by Labour today.
Instead women and ethnic minorities will be favoured in the workplace under a new Bill to be revealed by Equalities Minister Harriet Harman.
Critics blasted the measure as an unworkable piece of political correctness that will see good candidates overlooked for jobs in the interests of positive discrimination.
Tory MP Mark Pritchard said: “Everyone supports equal rights, but special rights cause resentment, do nothing for community cohesion and do not tackle racial prejudice. This is another example of political correctness which will not achieve an improvement in equality.”
And John Midgley of the Campaign Against Political Correctness said: “There is nothing positive about positive action or discrimination. It is counter-productive and potentially racist and sexist. This is typical of Harriet Harman, who must be the most politically correct MP.”
Under the new measures, firms will be able to favour the ethnic minority job applicant between two equally qualified candidates.
Officials insist the move is “positive action” rather than discrimination, and say they remain opposed to job quotas for women or ethnic minorities.
Even equality campaigners attacked the measures when they were first announced in March. Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society, an equal pay pressure group, said: “How you would really hold that up in a court of law is not clear and employers may be reluctant to use it. You are probably talking about a handful of cases.”
Under the measure, companies will also be pressured into publishing clearer details of pay levels in an attempt to curb discrimination in salaries. But businesses are deeply worried about the measure undermining workforce morale and breeding more bureaucracy.
The Bill, which will go through Parliament in the next session, will also outlaw ageism. Ministers want to stop elderly people being patronised by doctors following complaints of pensioners being fobbed off by GPs and denied health, travel and car insurance.
Ms Harman said last week: “The last frontier of equality is ensuring that the growing number of older people in this country don’t face unfair prejudice and discrimination.”
It is thought that the Bill will put ageism on a par with racism. The new legislation is aimed at tackling “harmful” age discrimination and will not ban systems which have benefits for the elderly, such as free bus travel.
Speaking at a trade union conference yesterday, Ms Harman said: “We are committed to equality and to tackling discrimination.
“Equality and an absence of discrimination are the hallmarks of a modern society and a strong economy which can draw on the talents of all.”