To fight for disabled rights, scrap all anti-union laws!

This is Janine’s speech seconding the motion on the Trade Union Act at TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference 2019. The motion was passed unanimously.


RMT welcomes PCS’ motion and its focus on electronic balloting. Our amendment extends this discussion to the rest of the Trade Union Act and to the rest of the anti-union laws.

Under UK law, we can not take lawful industrial action except in so-called ‘trade disputes’:

So, we can strike for higher pay for ourselves, but we can’t strike against benefit sanctions.

We can strike to defend our jobs, but we can’t strike for the right to work or benefits for all, including disabled people.

The law allows us only to act ‘selfishly’, and when we do, the Tories and the media denounce us for being selfish!


When I say we ‘can’ strike on these workplace issues – I mean only after jumping through a great number of hoops that the law sets down.

So, you might have blatant disability discrimination at work, for example a disabled workmate being sacked, or the employer imposing a discriminatory policy. But to take action, you have to hold a postal ballot, give two lots of notice (one of one week, one of two weeks) and hand over a huge volume of information before you can even take action.

By the time you have done that, your workmate’s been sacked, the policy is in place, and you are fighting a rearguard action.

Funnily enough, employers don’t have to give notice or hold postal ballots before attacking us, and yet we have to do it before defending ourselves.


Similarly, employers can spend money on political donations and political lobbying – for example, against stronger requirements on them to be accessible to disabled people – without workers having to opt in to the product of our labour being spent in this way.

But under the law, we do have to opt in to our own trade unions’ political funds to spend money on political lobbying in our interests.


The Tories introduced most of these laws, not (as they claim) to democratise unions, as they claimed, but in order to neutralise trade unions.

Sadly, when Labour was last in government, it refused to repeal the anti-union laws. Tony Blair described Britain’s laws as the most restrictive union laws in western Europe, as though that were a good thing.

When Labour is next in government, we want it to repeal all the anti-union laws.

Paul Nowak spoke this morning, and called for the repeal of the 2016 Trade Union Act. Labour’s leaders say that they will repeal the Trade Union Act.

But we don’t just want to go back to 2015. We were campaigning against anti-union laws in 2015. We campaigned against them then and we still need to campaign against them now.

Please support this motion and campaign for the repeal of all anti-trade-union laws which restrict our ability to fight for the rights of disabled workers.


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