This year ASLEF saw a first as we sent a delegation to the TUC Disabled Workers Conference for the first time. This was after we set up the Disabled Members Forum (DMF) in late 2019 with their first meeting taking place in early 2020.
We were due to attend the 2020 conference however this was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic meaning that 2021 was the first year that we were in a position to send a delegation. 2021’s conference took place virtually on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th March.
Our delegation was made up of two members from the DMF Paul Miles (DMF member District 7) and Tom Harcourt (DMF Secretary, District 8). ASLEF’s motion passed and below is a summary of the conference.
Wednesday 10th March
Conference began with a keynote address from Frances O’Grady (TUC General Secretary) and Dave Allan (Co-Chair of the TUC Disabled Workers Committee)
The conference then opened up into a debate around organising against the unequal impact of Covid-19 on disabled workers and disabled people. During the debate unions gave interventions highlighting the impact the pandemic has had and the work their unions have undertaken and will be undertaking to organise against the unequal impact of Covid-19.
Paul Miles gave ASLEF’s intervention during the debate.
In the afternoon on Wednesday the delegation attended a fringe event organised by the TUC LESE disabled members network that covered the law around disability discrimination. The fringe was lead by Thompsons Solicitors, with them giving a presentation explaining current legislation and taking questions from those present. The fringe event was well attended by union activists with many questions seeking further information around legislation being asked and answered.
Thursday 11th March
The second day of conference began with an informative panel discussion on the role and importance of ‘visibility’ in tackling disability discrimination. The panel featured union officials and Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts and Catherine Hale from Chronic Illness Inclusion Project the discussions covered ways that the union movement can work collaboratively to expose and tackle disability discrimination.
Next we heard a key note address from Gail Cartmail (TUC President), Vicky Foxcroft (Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Labour Party) and Rachel O’Brien (Inclusion London)
The conference then moved on to debate Trade unions enforcing reasonable adjustments, highlighting how many employers have been able to make adjustments which they had previously denied and the need for unions to ensure that disabled workers continue to be able to work with, and request reasonable adjustments to roles.
The second debate continued to look at reasonable adjustments but focused on trade unions securing working from home as a reasonable adjustment.
ASLEF Motion to Conference
Visibility of disabled workers
Conference believes that despite more than 50% of disabled people of working age being in employment their contributions to workplaces can be overlooked or are often unseen.
Conference therefore calls on the TUC Disabled Workers Committee to launch a campaign during Disabled History Month 2021 that increases the visibility of disabled workers and the valuable contributions that they make in workplaces throughout the UK.
Our motion was passed and as such we should see a campaign later this year to increase the visibility of disabled workers and their contribution to the world of work.