Report: RMT Disabled Members’ Conference

Yesterday saw RMT’s first ever Disabled Members’ Conference, held in London.

Although quite small (9 delegates, plus union officials), the important thing was that it took place at all, especially as rank-and-file members had pushed for its creation against the wishes of the union’s national leadership. Now it is established, it will grow from year to year, as the union’s other equalities conferences have done.


TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee, Conference and Manifesto

I reported on the work of the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee (which I co-Chair):

  • TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference takes place on 18-19 May, and for the first time, RMT has a full delegation of 15 members
  • The Committee produces lots of useful guidance and information for trade unionists – you can find it here.
  • Having policies on lots of different disability issues, the Committee brought them together in a Manifesto (which you can read here) to give focus to our fight for disabled workers’ rights.

The Conference then discussed the TUC Manifesto for Disability Equality in detail, looking at which issues were particularly relevant in our workplaces and what we want the union to do to fight for the Manifesto’s demands. Delegates made the following points:

  • Workplace issues:
    • invisible conditions are important but often overlooked (read TUC information on hidden disability here)
    • companies are using discipline and attendance policies to persecute disabled workers
    • occupational health is sometimes helpful but often not
  • Disabled passengers:
    • our defence of transport jobs is also defence of disabled passengers’ access eg. keeping guards on trains
    • there are many barriers to disabled passengers’ access to public transport – step-free is not enough; there are other access issues too
  • What the union can do:
    • ask and meet members’ access needs
    • print documents in larger font sizes and/or print on pastel rather than white paper
    • systematically educate and train of reps and officers on disability issue 
    • provide information, education and support


Credit Union

The conference heard a speaker about the RMT Credit Union.



Conference passed six resolutions, as follows (summaries, not the full resolution text):

  1. Disabled Workers and Attendance at Work Policies
    Employers persecuting disabled workers and workers with caring responsbility for disabled dependants – RMT to rigorously defend members and demand review of attendance policies
  2. Improving RMT Policy and Activity on Mental Health
    Working conditions cause mental health problems to many workers – RMT to campaign for metnally-healthy transport workplaces, continue training courses and protest against cuts in mental health services
  3. Social Model of Disability
    The social model is a way of understanding disability, which identifies that many people have physical, mental and other impairments, and that society disables impaired people by putting barriers in their way of their equal participation – RMT to adopt and promote this model
  4. Accessibility Audit
    RMT to audit the accessibility of all its premises, events and activities, and take measures to improve their accessibility
  5. Disabled Workers and Austerity
    Austerity cuts have been particularly harsh on disabled people – RMT to campaign against austerity, support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and challenge myths about ‘benefit scroungers’
  6. Autism and Neurodiversity
    Autistic and other neurodivergent (eg. dyslexic, dyspraxic) people experience systematic disadvantage in society – RMT to continue autism training, provide neurodiversity training, and support the Labour Party Autism/Neurodiversity Manifesto

Conference voted to submit resolutions 3 and 4 to the union’s Annual General Meeting. The other four resolutions will go to the union’s National Executive Committee.


Election of Chair etc.

The Conference could not elect the Chair, Vice-Chair and Liaison Committee, as these have to be members of the Advisory Committee and we don’t know who is on the Advisory Committee because in one region there were more nominees than seats so an election has to take place. Delegates expressed the view that this was a consequence of the National Executive Committee deciding that the Advisory Committee has only three seats per region, when other equality committees have up to six seats per region. An appeal against this decision will be debated at the union’s AGM in June.

Conference elected a Chair (me) and Vice-Chair (Mark Beresford) for this Conference only.


Next year’s conference

… will be held in Southend, hosted by South East Essex branch. We hope the union will schedule this for two days – as the other equality conferences are – rather than the single afternoon we had this year.

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