Trade unionists know that the coalition government’s attack on the welfare state continues and ministers threaten more years yet of austerity policies. The cuts imposed since 2010 have brought massive suffering to millions of people. Disabled people are among the very worst hit. But opinion polls continue to show that the government’s disgraceful and divisive rhetoric, backed up by non-stop propaganda from tabloid newspapers, has convinced a majority that people forced to claim benefits are idle scroungers. The impact of benefit cuts and of the associated campaign of demonization of disabled people has been catastrophic, not least in encouraging hate crime.
But it is not all gloom. Disabled people themselves have organised an inspirational campaign of resistance and have made alliances with trade unions. Disabled people have taken part in all of the national trade union protests against government policy and have organised their own spectacular events.
If the government attack is to be defeated, it is vital to win public backing for an alternative – and that alternative has to include a future that works for disabled people, whether in work, seeking work, or not able to work and therefore requiring support. That is a major challenge for trade unions.
This briefing sets out a summary of the facts to enable trade unions to challenge government and media lies, and suggests ways in which unions can work with disabled people to promote an alternative.