Disabled transport workers discussed issues from workplace representation to the role of charities at their two-day RMT conference in Southend on 26-27 April.
This was only the second annual RMT Disabled Members’ Conference, after the union’s rank-and-file delegates overturned the Executive’s persistent refusal to establish the event. The conference proved its worth, bringing together twenty delegates (twice as many as last year) from different transport sectors and areas of the country.
Paula Peters from Disabled People Against Cuts told delegates about the ongoing fight against Universal Credit and other measures which punish and harm disabled people. DPAC continues to organise direct action and lobbying. When the union’s national leadership reported on its work on disability, delegates took them to task for their lack of action.
The conference passed all five resolutions that branches had submitted. One called on the union to use accessible venues for regional training courses. Another proposed practical actions to fight mental health discrimination and the causes of mental distress. The conference agreed a resolution calling on the union to provide guidance to reps on how to present (and how not to present!) the case for members being disciplined for discriminatory conduct.
It also agreed a resolution to fight government cuts to funding for disabled children and to call on councils to resist these cuts rather than implement them.
Finally, the conference adopted a resolution critiquing the role of charities and rejecting “pity campaigning”. This resolution also opposed the union’s action in inviting the chief executive of mental health charity Mind to its health and safety conference earlier this year, as Mind has been collaborating with the DWP in its punitive policies towards disabled claimants.
In a series of workshops, delegates looked in depth at how RMT could become more accessible; the social model of disability; mental health; and representing disabled members, with an emphasis on turning individual cases into campaigns for workplace change.
Janine Booth was re-elected as the Chair of RMT’s Disabled Members’ Conference and Advisory Committee.