Seconding a motion from the University and Colleges Union (UCU) about the Disabled People’s Summit, I outlined the reasoning behind the text that RMT had added to the motion via our amendment. The motion (incorporating the amendment) was passed unanimously.
This is an excellent motion that commits us to actively demand that the government and employers make society and workplaces more accessible in order to allow us to live, work and participate independently.
What RMT has added is that as trade unions, we also do that – we need to get our own house in order.
None of our unions are as accessible as they could be. We need to see an end to:
- branch meetings in rooms accessible only by stairs
- union journals published only in printed form
- union events that are a full-on assault on your senses
- union interactions that bring on mental distress.
Instead, we need:
- union events and premises that everyone can get into and participate in
- union materials that everyone can read or otherwise access
- a welcoming culture and comradely debate
- reasonable adjustments where necessary but better than that, accessible unions where adjustments are not necessary
Our union, RMT, falls well short of this at the moment, but we are trying to do something about his.
Disabled members successfully proposed to last year’s RMT AGM that the union audit its accessibility.
This year, building work is being carried out on our National Education Centre to make it more physically accessible.
But we have a long way to go, and we would benefit from some help and support.
Your union may well be in a similar situation. If we leave unions to address this separately and in isolation, then either:
- it won’t get done effectively and consistently; or
- the trade union movement will duplicate its efforts and waste resources; or
- (most likely) both.
So our contribution to this motion commits the TUC and the Disabled Workers’ Committee to provide advice and support to trade unions in making themselves more accessible. We need to do this:
- firstly, because it is the right thing to do
- secondly, because it will make it harder for employers to call us hypocrites when we ask the same of them
- and thirdly, because it strengthens our unions at all levels if we enable disabled members to get involved.