Report: RMT Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee, 13 September

RMT’s Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee met for the second time on Wednesday 13 September.


1. Committee membership

We welcomed new members to the Committee, and completed the election of our Liaison (conference arrangements) Committee.


2. Guest speaker: Transport for All

Tariq Shabbeer explained the work of Transport for All, a campaigning charity that supports access to public transport in London for disabled and elderly people. We had an interesting and thorough discussion, on issues including: river and maritime transport; T4A’s support for station staffing, ticket offices, guards on trains, and licensed taxis; wheelchair access to buses and promotion of ‘baby wearing’ to free up space; T4A’s activities beyond London; and its work on non-apparent impairments such as sensory issues or mental health conditions. We agreed that we would like to continue workiing with T4A, and can consider affiliating to it if a branch submits a motion to our next meeting.


3. National Executive report

We were pleased to have three members of the National Executive present, who were able to explain the decisions taken on our resolutions and to hear own views on their implementation. The resolutions were:

  • Disabled Workers and Attendance at Work policies – Lead officers will be taking this up with employers.
  • Mental health – We had an indepth discussion on this, and recommended several actions: signposting mental health services to members; three themed posters for workplaces (one infographic; one on breaking the stigma/silence about mental ill-health; and one setting out the union’s key demands); activity in mental health week; a video; providing speakers to branch meetings – ideally, RMT members who are willingto speak about their own experiences of mental health problems; guidance to branches on making meetings welcoming, avoiding derogatory language, and upholding standards of comradely debate; recommend that branches elect a specific person to provide support to reps, and to provide a ‘listening ear’ for reps who may find their role stressful. We were pleased to hear tha tthe union has agreed to our request to make mental health the theme of next year’s RMT health and safety conference.
  • Social model of disability – The TUC guide has been circulated to branches; relevant union training courses have been revised to include content on the social model of disability. We suggested that ‘bitesize’ training on the social model could also be offered; National Executive members would like to receive this training. We also thought a short introductory video would be useful.
  • Accessibility audit – The Executive has instructed the General Secretary to carry out an audit of the accessibility of union premises; we were assured by the Executive members that following this, the audit would move on to the union’s events and other activities. There was no detail given on how the audit is going to be carried out. The Committee was keen that disabled members are facilitated to have an input about the barriers they have faced.
  • Disabled workers and austerity – We held a day of action on 20 July as part of DPAC’s week of action. We handed in a 4,000-strong ‘Disabled People for Guards’ petition to the Department for Transport, along with a protest and blocking the traffic! On the strike day on 10 July, DPAC activists had joined picket lines and handed out ‘Disabled People for Guards’ leaflets. We will work with DPAC to have a transport-themed day in its future weeks of action. There will be an article debunking the myths about disabled people and austerity in a future issue of RMT News.
  • Autism and neurodiversity – The union will be introducing Neurodiversity in the Workplace training to complement our continuing Autism in the Workplace training. A Committee member will write an article about being an autistic transport worker. The Executive has asked for a report from the lead officer about London Underground Ltd’ refusal to negotiate an autism and neurodiversity employment policy with us.
  • TUC Accessible Transport seminar – The Committee Chair, Janine Booth, is organising this on behalf of the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee. RMT Executive has agreed to support it in principle.


4. RMT National Disabled Members’ Conference

The conference will take place next year in Southend, date and venue to be confirmed. It will be a two-day conference with a social in the evening. We discussed measues to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible, suggested guest speakers (DPAC? a Labour MP eg. Marsha de Cordoba? TUC Disabled Workers Committee on mental health?) and ideas for workshops and training (social model?). The Liaison (conference arrangements) Committee will meet before the next Advisory Committee meeting on 15 November and present a detailed plan.


5. Local Reports

  • Chiltern Railways management have been bullying our rep.
  • Chiltern Line branch has elected an Autism and Neurodiversity Officer (Andy Robbins) – as far as we know, the first one ever!
  • TfL mental health first aiders – agreed to seek a report to our next meeting


6. Training

RMT runs the following week-long courses relevant to disability:

  • Equality
  • Disability in the Workplace
  • Autism in the Workplace
  • Mental Health
  • Cancer in the Workplace

Dates for these courses at the National Education Centre (Doncaster) for next year will be published soon.

All these courses can be run in regions on request of the Regional Council, with the union’s head office meeting the cost. 

We will also be organising a Disabled Members’ Weekend course – You and Your Union – empowering disabled members to get involved in the union.


7. Logo and banner

We would like to have a logo for RMT disabled members, and a banner. We would like members to put forward suggestions for designs.

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