Report: TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee, 9 October 2019

Accessible Transport

I will be convening the committee’s accessible transport working group, which will also include Elane Heffernan (UCU), Colleen Johnson (NEU) and Austin Harney (PCS).

We already have a campaign plan, which will now be updated.

The Committee agreed to support RMT DMAC’s day of action against London Overground ticket office cuts on 1 November.

Unite the Union advised that they are organising a protest for accessibility at Angel station.

We also look forward to receiving replies from TfL’s Heidi Alexander to questions put to her at a recent SERTUC event on accessible transport.


Anti-union laws

I will be convening a working group on fighting the anti-union laws, emphasising disabled workers’ interest in doing so. The other members of the group are Austin Harney and Elane Heffernan.

We will be working on:


Social Model of Disability

I am a member of a working group which promotes the social model of disability. We have agreed to produce a briefing incorporating scenarios to improve understanding of the social model. I have submitted the bitesize workshop I wrote for RMT for the TUC to consider using as a model.

We are currently developing an online training module on the social model.


Disability Pay Gap

The Disability Pay Gap working group will be issuing publicity on 4 November, the date from which disabled workers ‘work for free’ ie. the date by which the average worker has been paid as much as an average disabled worker is paid in the whole year.


Mental Health

Committee members took part in the Mental Health Crisis Conference on 28 September, and remain concerned at its lack of social-model approach. We want to ensure that the social causes of mental distress are highlighted more.

Reports are circulating that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has authorised job coaches in some areas to assess claimants’ mental health, despite not being qualified to do so. It has also issued guidance to claimants on which words to use in filling in claims, advising against using words such as ‘chronic’ and ‘depression’. We will be contacting the PCS union and claimants’ groups to find out more and offer our support in fighting this.


TUC strategic governance review

The TUC is consulting equalities committees about possible changes to its structure. We confirmed that we want our conferences to remain as annual events, that we want clarity that Disabled Workers’ Conference delegates must be disabled workers, and that we want our committee to be able to organise campaigning as well as advise the TUC. I raised a proposal that disabled workers have two seats on the TUC General Council instead of one as at present: one for large unions, one for smaller unions.

The Committee will have a special ad hoc meeting in December to discuss the governance review in depth.



We may have an opportunity to be involved in the European Network for Independent Living and the World Council on Independent Living. We are awaiting an update from the TUC on identifying a joint Jewish-Arab disabled people’s organisation in Israel-Palestine that we can build solidarity with.


TUC Congress

TUC equality monitoring had a 100% data return, showing 16.1% of delegates were disabled – higher than 2018 but less than 2017. I asked whether data was compiled on the proportion of rank-and-file delegates and union officials. This will be monitored at equality conferences.

Our motion – on the National Independent Living service – was carried. But there is some concerns as to whether the Labour Party intends to incorporate this into NHS, which we oppose


Young workers’ seat

We co-opted Poppy Brown (College of Podiatry), the sole nominee.


Disability History Month

This year’s Disability History Month runs from 22 November to 22 December, with the theme ‘Leadership, resistance and culture’.

TUC is planning:

  • profiles of DWC members as leaders
  • promoting the social model of disability
  • online content
  • marking the centenary of the blind persons’ march, and of protets by disabled ex-servicemen
  • a trade union-focused event during December


Disabled Workers’ Conference 2020

The following guest speakers were suggested: Liz Carr, Cherylee Houston, James Moore

We are considering smaller-group sessions on, for example, independent living, and the social model.


2020 dates:

  • 11 February – deadline for motions and Committee nominations
  • 26 February – Disabled Workers’ Committee meeting 3
  • 30 March – amendments deadline
  • 22 April – Disabled Workers’ Committee meeting 4
  • 19 May – emergency motions deadline (12:30)
  • 21 May – Disabled Workers’ Committee meeting 5
  • 21-22 May – Disabled Workers’ Conference


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