The TUC recently held our annual Disabled Workers conference in Congress House and we reprint here three different views of proceedings from members of our regional forum. Thanks to Denice Gajic from PCS, Phil Norton from Unite, and Barbara Davis from the Walsall Division of the National Union of Teachers for their contributions which have made this special edition possible.
The TUC has linked up with MIND to work together to promote mental health in the workplace (see article below), and to challenge the discrimination and prejudice that prevents millions of people with mental health issues from getting or keeping jobs. This is an important campaign, not least because as many as 1 in 6 working people will experience depression, anxiety or stress in any given year. Trade unions need to be at the forefront of this campaign, protecting their members and ensuring they get the correct support to ensure their wellbeing at work.
Finally, the TUC is gearing up for two marches in the autumn, one here in the Midlands on October 7th and our national march and rally in London under the banner 'March for a Future that Works'. The London march and rally will be on Saturday 20th October and details for both these events will be widely distributed. We are looking to maximise attendance at these two important demonstrations - will you be there?
Rob Johnston, Midlands TUC Regional Secretary
As a first time delegate to a TUC Conference of any kind; it was an interesting and rewarding experience to attend the TUC Disabled Workers Conference 2012.
My nomination was put forward from the National Union of Teachers Midlands Regional Council in Birmingham. Our NUT delegation met on the Tuesday afternoon (29th May) to discuss the motions which were being put forward at Conference over the next couple of days.
It was a first for me to visit my own union's head office in London after almost 40 years as a member of the NUT. It was also very moving to visit Congress House and everything that it stands for historically in the trade union movement; especially as I come from a family of miners going back three generations.
There were many exhibitors in the foyer area over the two day conference. On entering the conference hall, each delegate sat with their own union. Our previously supplied paperwork made following the programme for a first-timer very easy and the whole atmosphere during the Disabled Workers Conference was very supportive and friendly throughout.
A delegate who puts a motion forward from their trade union has six minutes to speak. The delegate who seconded the motion and any delegate that spoke after that for/against the motion did so for three minutes. Conference then voted on that motion and then the result was announced from the Chair on the podium at the front. Timings were tightly adhered to throughout.
I attended a lunch-time fringe meeting about 'Hate-Crime' as this is a major issue in our country at this time.
The opening motion of conference was put forward by the National Union of Teachers delegate Mandy Hudson. She has been elected onto the TUC Disability Committee 2012/2013. Mandy highlighted the worsening cycle of discrimination that disabled workers face as a result of the current crisis. Employment rates are 30% lower for disabled workers than non-disabled workers. More than three million disabled people want to work. Employers are often unwilling or perceive they are unable to make reasonable adjustments.
The introduction of fees in employment tribunals will make it harder for workers to challenge unfair dismissal because of costs. The Disabled Workers Conference called on the TUC to campaign for a FREE, accessible employment system.
The NASUWT added an additional point in their amendment to continue to campaign vigorously against the Coalition Government's ideologically driven attacks on employment and equality law as well as on access to justice through changes to the Employment Tribunal system. There was a photo-call at lunchtime on Wednesday with delegates from the NUT and NASUWT standing shoulder to shoulder in the light of the new declaration of intent to act together in defence of teachers and of education.
GMB's amendment was for trade unions to campaign with Remploy Trade Unions to stop the closures and privatisation of their factories. The Government are hoping to save £60 million by these closures. Delegates employed at Remploy spoke passionately several times throughout the two day conference.
Conference welcomed the TUC's lead in collaborating with 'Mind,' and called for other affiliated trade unions to work with 'Mind' and other similar organisations to develop practical initiatives in the workplace which deliver real improvements to the mental health of employees.
Prospect's call to implement good practical policies on issues like work/life balance, performance management, bullying and harassment in the workplace in order to help all employees maintain good health struck a chord with NUT delegates in particular. Susannah Billeter seconded the motion and spoke about health, education and other public services increasing the incidence of work related stress within public sector workplaces. By under-valuing employees in the public sector the mental health of all public sector workers is threatened.
A motion put forward on Thursday by the National Union of Journalists on ethical reporting and unionised workplaces included talk of raising awareness so that NUJ members agree to uphold a 'Code of Conduct' as a membership condition. Their aim is to promote union membership among all workers handling news and information including PR's and website practitioners in order to increase quality and accountability of journalism. This was followed by motions concerning the media attacks on disabled people and media coverage of disabled people.
Everything that was covered by this conference reflected our society at this point in time and how our unions and members are working so hard to make a difference, not only for disabled workers but for all their members.
Disabled people will be urged to continue their resistance to the government spending cuts which are hitting every aspect of their lives .
Delegates spoke about fighting the cuts - issued to coincide with the conference reveals the true impact of the government's spending cuts on disabled people, and encouraged unions and disabled people to fight back.
The conference highlights several key areas of concern, including:
Employment: The employment of disabled people is especially vulnerable to public sector job cuts. Between 1998 and 2008 there was a continuous increase in the proportion of disabled people in work. For the first time nearly 50 per cent of working age disabled people were in paid employment. One reason for this was that a higher proportion of disabled people found work within the public sector. With hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs already lost or under threat, disabled people's employment is at risk.
Benefits: Changes to benefits and to welfare to work programmes will penalise disabled job seekers. For the millions of disabled people reliant on benefits because they cannot work or are no longer of working age, reforms such as the abolition of the disability living allowance and changes to carer's allowance will lead to increased poverty for some of the poorest people in the UK.
Healthcare: The proposed cuts to NHS budgets will affect most groups in society, but disabled people face significantly reduced provision in areas like mental health services. The False Economy website has uncovered at least 6,300 job losses in 53 mental health services around the UK. Combined with deep cuts in community mental health teams, this will progressively reduce the services available to the many people who desperately rely on them.
Transport: Reductions in public transport services and transport subsidies will impact on the ability of disabled people to participate in society, particularly those living in more rural areas.
Housing: In addition to some disabled people facing the consequences of the cap on housing benefit imposed in the 2010 budget, the Supporting People programme - which has paid for disabled and elderly people to live independently - has also been severely affected by cuts.
Safety: The government's propaganda in support of its benefit reduction plans has led to a campaign against 'scroungers' and a surge in disability hate crime; while at the same time cuts to police budgets threaten to turn back progress made in recent years in challenging such attacks.
Conference also suggests ways that unions can help disabled people challenge the cuts, both in the workplace and the wider community.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber highlighted just how hard some of the most vulnerable members of our society have been hit by the government's deep spending cuts.
'But a fight back is taking place and unions have a key role to play. Thousands of disabled people joined the TUC March for the Alternative earlier this year, and many more took part in the Hardest Hit march and rally on 11 May - the largest demonstration by disabled people for decades.'
Speakers at the two-day disability conference at Congress House include Lord Low of Dalston Sean McGovern Sasha Callaghan UCU and Disability History Month John McDonnell MP Kaliya Franklin The Broken Britain Les Woodward GMB Eleanor Lisney Disabled People against the Cuts.
I spoke to conference about the impact that ATOS are having on disabled people. Due to the Medical reviews they have completed and the bad feedback I have received. I have had first-hand knowledge of this.
I have to say this was the best Conference I have been to, it gave me a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones but most of all it gave me a chance to network and find out what's happening with regards to Disabled People across the country.
This two-day event was held at Congress House in London, and was attended across the board from within the TU movement, including delegates with varying disabilities.
Sasha Callaghan welcomed everyone to Conference. She then introduced Seán McGovern, who is Co-Chair of the TUC disabled workers Committee and the member of the General Council representing disabled workers. Sasha also introduced Sarah Veale, who is the secretary of the TUC disabled workers Committee and Peter Purton, who does all the administration for the TUC disabled workers Committee. She also mentioned the other TUC members of staff who help put this Conference together. Carol Ferguson, Julie Lawrence, Jay Cook and Stef Pugsley.
She also reminded Conference about being respectful to other delegates even when we don't always agree with their view points, to be careful with our language, we don't want any language that's disablist, sexist, homophobic.
The first speaker was Lord Colin of Dalston. He is a life long campaigner for the rights of disabled people, and especially around the field of education. He is a UCU member and Director of the disability resource team for many years before he was appointed to the House of Lords in 2006.
Lord Low said that it was a great pleasure to be here and was pleased to have been invited. He said that there was a widespread feeling that this is the most hostile government disabled people have faced since anyone can remember. He asked how this can be justified. His said he thought that there were two reasons. First, the government's economic policy is too restrictive to the point where it's actually counter productive and self defeating, the draconian cuts in public expenditure are putting a strangle hold on the economy which is actually inhibiting recovery. The general pain doesn't have to be as great. Secondly, the government has made many statements to the effect that it intends to introduce its austerity measures in such a way as to ensure the most vulnerable are protected.
A question and answer session then took place from the floor.
The next speaker was Seán McGovern. He said how he thought that the law was becoming stronger when disability equality duty was introduced and how he recognized the possibility of greater progress in the public sector. He mentioned how the government say that they are getting disabled people off benefit and into work. The first part of that sentence is true, they are getting disabled people off benefit in very, very frighteningly large numbers, ATOS Health Care is certainly getting thousands of disabled people off incapacity benefit; whether or not they are entitled to it. He went on to say that the job market is not one where any employer is going to recruit someone who needs adjustments. If they have the chance of employing somebody who doesn't, they will, and there are a few million of those around now, thanks to this government's austerity policies.
He then touched on the introduction of DLA. He said that the clue to this is in the title. However he felt that this government obviously does want to keep this going because it has come up with something else, in which the word "personal" and key words are "personal" and "independence". He went onto say this is where we leave the world of Alice in wonderland and enter that of George Orwell in 1984, because the government's intention to increase disabled people's independence by reassessing everyone's entitlement with the stated aim of saving one million pounds, so maybe half a million disabled people are going to lose their entitlement; obviously when the coalition government talks about independence, that means it will make you independent of benefits. His speech was extremely interesting. A question and answer session then took place.
Various speakers got up then and spoke about the proposed closure of Remploy. This produced quite a lively debate.
Over the lunch period I attended a fringe meeting on Disability Hate Crime that was organised by Unite. Verbal and physical attacks on disabled people are disgusting and are becoming more frequent. At the meeting it was thought that a lot of the blame could be attributed to the government and the media as they look upon disabled people as work-shy scroungers!
After lunch Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, addressed Conference. During his speech Brendan announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. He went on to say how we are meeting once again amidst profoundly difficult times for disabled workers. He said our economy remains in crisis, with Britain now back in a double dip recession. Basic employment rights are under attack at a time when workers need them most.
He said that the government continues to force through cuts of a magnitude not seen in living memory. The services we all rely on are suffering grievously, including our NHS which they said would be safe in their hands. Hundreds of thousands of dedicated public servants are being thrown on to the dole and the welfare state the glue that holds our diverse society together is being ripped apart. He also mentioned Remploy and how the TUC are continuing to work with all the Remploy unions, to campaign to get the government to reverse this decision.
Resolutions were also passed on the following subjects:
A cycle of discrimination for disabled workers.
The politics of self-interest.
Decent state pensions for disabled people.
Ethical reporting and unionised workplaces.
Defending rights for disabled people.
Media attacks on disabled people.
Media coverage of disabled people.
Defence of supported employments establishments.
Access to education.
Standing up for standards.
Lost Arts (a campaign against cuts in the arts)
Free Internet broadband.
A new national Disabled Workers' Committee was elected:
David Bryson (NASUWT),
Ann Galpin (NUJ),
Mandy Hudson (NUT),
Martin Kelly (BFAWU),
Mark Leopard (PCS),
Lesley McCallum (Unite),
Robert Mooney (Community),
Julie Robinson (UNISON),
Patricia Roche (UCU),
John Swaney (Prospect),
Tony Sneddon (CWU),
Robert Steadman (POA),
Cliff Towson (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy),
Les Woodward (GMB),
Julian Allam (Unite),
Manjeet Sandhu (Unite),
Michelle Williams (NASUWT).
To summarise the two-day Disabled Workers' Conference 2012 was a very interesting and enjoyable experience for me. It was pleasing to see that the disablement movement is growing and speaking up.
It was a privilege to have been elected to attend the 2012 TUC Disabled Workers' Conference on 30th & 31st May 2012 on behalf of the TUC Midlands Region. It was an interesting and worthwhile experience.
With disabled people's jobs and living standards under serious attack from Government attacks on public services, the TUC has published up to date advice and guidance for trade unions on the law on disability discrimination, along with good practice in dealing with day to day issues in the workplace. The 2011 new edition of Disability and Work can be downloaded free of charge or ordered from TUC publications.
The TUC has linked up with MIND to work together to promote mental health in the workplace (see box), and to challenge the discrimination and prejudice that prevents millions of people with mental health issues from getting or keeping jobs.
Representing and Supporting members with mental health problems at work. Free download, or can be obtained from TUC publications (free to unions, £5 otherwise)
Disability and Work Pdf version
Austerity isn't working. Our country faces long-term economic problems. But our political leaders have failed to face up to them.
For the next five years or more, unless policies change the economy won't grow, incomes won't rise, and there will be almost no new jobs.
If the government keeps on with big spending cuts and austerity we face a lost decade. Even on their own terms government policies are failing. To close the deficit we need a healthy growing economy that generates tax income. But austerity has led to a vicious circle of decline.
Instead of just letting the banks go back to business and bonuses as usual, we need policies that promote real jobs and a fairer economy.
We need A Future That Works.
Join us in London on 20 October, for a mass demonstration to show the government the true scale of opposition to their economic programme.
Take the pledge now to march with us, or if you can't make it in person, to take actions online in support of the day. Sign up online, and add your own message and photo to show why you support a different plan for the future. A Future That Works.
We are publishing all our media releases on our blog: http://midlandstucmedia.blogspot.com/
This includes links to the False Economy website where cuts information is added on a daily basis:
Our website address is: http://www.tuc.org.uk/tuc/regions_info_midlands.cfm
You can also follow us on Twitter @MidlandsTUC
E: email@example.com T: 0121 262 6383
Published by TUC Midlands Region, 24 Livery Street, Birmingham B3 2PA
Copyright in this publication is held by the TUC unless otherwise stated. For more copies of this newsletter contact Michelle Kesterton on tel: 0121 262 6383 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This text may also be made available, on request, in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape and large print, at no extra cost.
Newsletter (3,300 words) issued 16 Jul 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-21196-f0.cfm
printed 18 May 2013 at 20:30 hrs by 126.96.36.199