At RMT's 2015 AGM, I proposed an appeal, the effect of which would be to start the process of creating a Disabled Members' Advisory Committee. These are my speech notes. The appeal was passed.
This appeal is against the Council of Executives’ decision not to put forward a rule change to create a Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee. The purpose, and the effect of passing, this appeal is to overturn that decision and tell the Council of Executives to bring forward such a rule change to next year’s Annual General Meeting.
You have a long text in front of you, but this is a simple issue: Do we need a Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee without further delay? Yes, we do.
All we are asking for is what our women members, black & ethnic minority members, young members and LGBT members already have.
The Committee would be a forum for disabled members to get involved and to articulate our issues.
What are the arguments against?
1. Branches could have submitted this rule change but didn’t.
In fact, at least ten branches did pass this rule change. Unfortunately, some of them did not submit it in the correct format, so it did not get on the agenda.
Also, several branches submitted to the internal structures review that they wished this committee to be created.
2. Few members have attended the informal disabled members’ meetings.
12 members attended the last one, which is not bad! We have had grades conferences and equalities conferences smaller than this in the past.
In any case, informal meetings tend to be small because they are informal! The low-ish attendance is actually an argument to set up a proper committee.
The most recent meeting was notified only by a circular to branches, and was a meeting only to discuss whether to set up a committee and conference – hardly the most exciting of topics! Moreover, branches had to meet the full cost of members attending, which would not be the case for a committee.
All that considered, it is quite impressive that 12 members turned up. They stated unanimously and forcefully that they wanted this committee to be set up. So why ask for their advice only to ignore it?!
3. The Council of Executives’ decision commits to further informal meetings.
Yet more meetings about whether to have meetings!
Instead, we want a properly-constituted committee and conference, with guest speakers, workshops, and the right to debate and pass resolutions, the right for your branches to put items on the agenda.
On Monday, we debated resolutions from our Women’s, Black & Ethnic Minority, Young Members’, LGBT, Health & Safety, Education and Retired Members’ Conferences. But not from our Disabled Members’ Conference – because we don’t have one.
This is why we have Equality Advisory Committees – because specific groups with specific issues need a forum.
Our reps put a lot of effort into representing disabled members, who have been:
- medically terminated when they can and want to continue working
- bullied under attendance / MfA policies
- denied promotion because of inaccessible or discriminatory recruitment processes
They are currently doing so in isolation, and as individual cases. Setting up a Committee would enable us to develop from the experience of individual cases into wider campaigns.
Disabled people have long had the problem that people want to do things for us, over our heads. However well-intentioned, these are often things that we do not want.
The disabled people’s movement has a slogan – ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’.
I have seen so many union members come through, for example the Women’s Advisory Committee, to become more confident, to go on to become AGM delegates, reps etc. I want to see the same with disabled members.
Three quarters of trade union members are members of unions which have a disabled members’ structure – it’s time that RMT members had that too.
Tell our Council of Executives that it has got it wrong on this one; that it is being too cautious; that it needs to bring forward a rule change to create proper forums for disabled members.
Please vote for this appeal.