On 26-27 April more than thirty disabled transport workers attended the RMT trade union’s largest Disabled Members’ Conference yet.
Every delegate contributed to debates and discussions, which covered subjects including accessible public transport, mental health, and “reasonable adjustments”. On the latter, the conference stressed that our priority is to win accessible workplaces, rather than leave the onus on individual workers to ask for personal changes.
Delegates also condemned the personality testing used by many employers, which seeks to enforce social conformity in the workplace and discriminates particularly against autistic and other neurodivergent applicants.
Delegates spoke about the need to confront employers, rather than go along with their “awareness”, “inclusion” and “diversity” claims, which usually mask attacks on disabled workers.
Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth, where the conference took place, told the conference of his support for RMT’s battles to keep guards on trains and staff on stations, and about the devastating impact of Tory cuts to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities funding.
Since the union changed its rules last year, equality group committees now have the power to decide their own procedures and activities, although these remain subject to approval by the National Executive. The disabled members’ action plan includes protests against job cuts and for accessible transport, and initiatives to widen disability activism across the union at rank-and-file level.
The conference voted to expand the size of the disabled members’ committee from three to five seats per region, although delegates are concerned that this may face opposition on the National Executive.
Disabled members are also concerned that our own union falls well short of being accessible. From its premises to its branches and communications, significant action is required, and disabled members are ready to hold the union’s leadership to account if it fails to deliver those changes.