Venue accessibility: We noted our success in getting the TUC to change the conference location to an accessible venue. We looked at the detailed access statement for the venue, and I asked that a relaxation space be allocated for the use of conference attendees.
Committee nominations: all received are in order; 15 candidates for 14 seats in the main section; Julian Allam (Unite) elected unopposed as black workers’ seat; Caroline Farrall elected unopposed as LGBT seat; 3 candidates for one women’s seat.
Resolutions: all accepted onto agenda except one from TSSA which arrived after the deadline (I voted to accept it onto the agenda as the conference has been moved back a week and the deadline is ten weeks before the conference and so had also de facto moved back a week, but the Committee’s vote was to reject it.)
Subjects include: access to sports and entertainment venues; accessible transport; casting and media portrayal of disabled people; cuts to Access to Work; Universal Credit; government industrial strategy; United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD); impact of Brexit on disabled people; disability hate crime; disabled workers’ summit; mental health discrimination.
Unions now have the opportunity to submit amendments. After these have been submitted, the next meeting of the Committee will arrange the motions (and possible composites) into a logical order.
At the next meeting, we will discuss submitting an emergency motion to the conference on cuts to funding for kids with Special Needs and Disabilities (SEND), which I will draft in conjunction with education union representatives.
Guest speakers: The previous meeting had drawn up a list of possible guest speakers, including Labour MPs Debbie Abrahams and Marsha de Cordova and various trade union disability activists. I objected to two of the suggestions – Mind, who are collaborating with the DWP; and the former Shadow Minister for Mental Health (better to invite the current one than the one who resigned!).
We decided that our panel session would be about the UNCRPD’s report condemning the UK government’s breaches of disabled people’s rights.
COMMITTEE WORKING GROUPS
Mental health: The sub-group has been considering various reports and statistics about mental health. It also drew attention to the government’s review of the Mental Health Act, an opportunity for us to highlight the mistreatment of people with mental health problems in state detention, for example Sarah Reed. I raised the issue of RMT reps’ achievement in winning a more tolerant and fair policy towards safety-critical workers using SSRI anti-depressants in one company (London Underground Ltd) and advocated that the Committee use this as a standard across safety-critical work.
Benefits: The sub-group continues to monitor and campaign on the impact of Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and ESA (Employment Support Allowance).
Accessible transport: I had previously drafted a plan for a summit on accessible transport, to bring together unions and passengers to agree plans for campaigning, including to keep guards on trains, defend accessible taxi services, and more. The plan had been put on hold while the TUC had a vacancy in staff support for our Committee, but it is now ‘back on the table’, and we hope to hold it in the autumn, with full details available by the time of TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference at the end of May. There was a suggestion to hold the event outside London, so we are going to look at the feasibility of a location such as Doncaster.
TUC DEMONSTRATION, 12 MAY 2018
The TUC is holding a major demonstration – ‘A Fair Deal for Working People’ – in London on 12 May, and the Committee was presented with an outline plan of the politics of the demo and the arrangements for disabled access. I made the point that concrete demands eg. £10 ph minimum wage, end zero-hour contracts, etc, be more upfront in building the event. Access arrangements include a short march; an assembly point for disabled marchers; accessible toilets; a viewing platform and singer on the big screen at the rally. Om our request, the TUC will ask unions not to supply whistles to marchers but to encourage chants instead.
PCS AT BRITISH MUSEUM
During the lunch break, some of us attended the PCS picket line at the nearby British Museum, supporting the fight for ex-Carillion workers to be taken on as direct, permanent employees.