Appendices: Is There Power in a Union for Autistic Workers?


Letter from RMT to Transport for London, sent 4 January 2022



My General Secretary has asked me to respond to your letter of 17th December 2021 on his behalf.

RMT is disappointed with your negative response to our request to address the new intake of Steps Into Work, and urges you to reconsider.

The stated aim of Steps Into Work is ‘to provide a real life work experience’. An authentic experience of real-life work would include trade unions.

Studies show that participants in employability schemes like Steps Into Work generally report positive experiences, but also have some concerns, including in areas such as interaction with customers, relationships with managers, and the level of support they receive. These are all areas in which our union can provide useful assistance, to the benefit of all involved.

As you may be aware, RMT had members among the last intake of Steps Into Work, and as a result, the union was able to raise important issues with the company, which the company was grateful to be informed of and which it acted on. These included providing travel expenses for those participants unable to obtain a Freedom Pass, and inappropriate content of the learning materials provided by the college.

RMT wishes to keep up this positive work, and has recently changed its rules to allow free membership for people on unpaid employability schemes.

Moreover, during their work placements, participants work in TfL workplaces alongside TfL staff, whom TfL recommend join a trade union. People undertaking work experience have the same rights as other workers, including the right to raise workplace concerns and to join and be represented by a trade union.

Our union addresses new starters on TfL/LUL, including apprentices. The main difference between apprenticeships and supported internships is that participants in the latter are disabled. Preventing them learning about trade unions on this basis is, we believe, discriminatory, and could be seen as infantilising autistic and learning-disabled people.

Finally, you are correct that some participants go on to employment outside the transport sector. We hope that they will join the appropriate union when they do so, at which point they will benefit from trade union experience gained while on Steps Into Work.

I again look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely

John Leach



Page Break


Draft contents list of RMT Neurodiversity guide




Key principles

  • The social model of disability
  • Neurodiversity
  • ‘Nothing about us without us’
  • Neurodiversity as a trade union issue


  • Explaining autism [and other neurodivergent conditions] as neurological divergence, including strengths as well as challenges
  • Co-occurring conditions; mental health
  • Myths and facts about autism [and other neurodivergent conditions]

Neurodiversity in the workplace

  • Barriers
  • Workplaces changes and reasonable adjustments
  • To disclose or not to disclose?
  • Employability schemes

Neurodiversity and trade union action

  • Campaigning for workplace change
  • Individual representation: tips for reps
  • Making branch meetings and activities neurodiversity-friendly
  • Industrial action
  • Solidarity, politics and Parliament
  • RMT training
  • RMT’s Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee
  • RMT policy

Neurodiversity, the workplace and the law

  • Equality Act
  • Autism Act
  • Other relevant legislation
  • Rights for carers


  • Glossary of terms
  • Further reading
  • Useful organisations
  • Access to Work and other government schemes

Included where relevant: several case studies

Download Page Content (.pdf)