Disabled workers’ conference pledges fightback against Tory attacks

Janine Booth, RMT delegate and co-Chair, TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee

TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference, meeting two weeks after the general election, resolved to mobilise and take direct action – and called on the full Trades Union Congress to do the same. Nearly 200 delegates debated and passed a variety of resolutions and discussed issues and strategies with guest speakers.

An emergency motion about the general election from the Disabled Workers’ Committee stated that “With the Conservatives promising £12 billion cuts, we can anticipate further cuts in benefits levels and entitlements, privatisation and closure of health and support services, and new attacks on our human rights, employment rights and trade union rights”, adding that “The government and sections of the media will doubtless back up these attacks with an ideological assault on disabled people as scroungers, trade unionists as wreckers and human rights as expendable.”

The resolution, passed unanimously by delegates, put forward a four-point strategy – working closely with the disabled people’s movement to organise campaigning and direct action; mobilising support for unions’ campaigns and strikes; encouraging disabled people to exercise their rights as a way of defending them; and taking the initiative in pursuing this fightback rather than waiting for specific attacks. This resolution will now be tabled to TUC Congress in September, after topping the delegates’ poll.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the conference that Tony Blair was wrong to say Labour lost the election because it was “too left wing”, instead arguing that “Labour spent too much time on the Tory territory of austerity”. She pledged that “If the government attacks our right to strike, we will fight them every step of the way”, but questioned on the detail of this fight, in particular whether it would include a national demonstration, she stated only that this would be discussed at the next TUC General Council meeting.

Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) continues to express in action what conferences such as this express in words. The conference reaffirmed its support for DPAC and gave a rousing reception to DPAC speaker, the tireless activist Paula Peters. Quoting Sylvia Pankhurst, Paula told delegates, “I will always be a rebel not a slave”.

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