Disability Conference Wednesday 12th October Leicester 2016
CWU North West Regional Committee Equality Chairperson , Jacqui Stewart from
Lancs & Cumbria Branch; reports on the union's Disability Conference 2016
This was the second mid-week conference and yet again we had a great attendance with 89 delegates, 34 observers, 11 members of the Disability Advisory Committee, 16 HQ/ NEC totalling 150 attendees from 70 branches.
A networking and social event was held the evening before conference which included a fund raising raffle for the African Caribbean Leukaemia trust which raised over £450 for the charity.
Tony Sneddon- Chair’s Opening Remarks
Tony thanked all the branches who sponsored the social event he also gave apologies from Dave Ward GS , who could not attend due to urgent business in Dublin at the European Postal Conference Tony stressed the importance of holding minority conference and these are a platform to bring people forward in a safe environment.
People living with disabilities are the most disadvantages in society the DWP stated they would protect people with long term disabilities but all we see is cuts to benefits and social care .
The Tories do little to help people back to work or to remain in a job and changes to Employment Tribunals and cost mean that people have less chance of obtaining justice if they are treated unfairly by their employer. It is a fact that people with disabilities are more likely to be in lower paid jobs and statistics prove they are more likely to commit suicide.
Discrimination takes various forms – Direct and Indirect, harassment and bullying, barriers to access to name a few. We appear to be in a time warp with dealing as a society with disability and thankfully we did get a U-Turn re the PIP benefits and this was down to the unions and national protests.
Our CWU motion at the TUC conference was successful and will be going to the TUC congress for the first time. the DAC is now working closely with the NEC and Dave Ward to push equality forward with both the CWU and the companies we represent.
Linda Roy – National Equality Officer
Dave Ward had passed on his thanks to the DAC and had relayed to Linda his commitment to Equality. Linda stated that no assessment has been done by this government since all the austerity cuts and we have no grasp of the devastating effects other than the UN reports which state that these cuts are a breach of Human Rights!
People with a disability are more likely to have a crime committed against them and some people have more than one characteristic of the Equality Act they may be gay and disabled or black and disabled. People need unions more than ever these days and need that extract protection especially in the work place.
None one should be forced to hide their disability or be afraid to ask for help or reasonable adjustment and they should not be forced to retire or lose their jobs because they have a disability. We also now have a mentoring scheme with trained mentors and they are now being match to new mentorees to bring people through and learn skills for the future of the CWU.
Kate Hudson – Regional Secrectary -Leicester
Kate welcomed everyone to her region and talked about being the first female regional secretary for the CWU.
Kate told of the moving life story of Joseph Merrick better known as the ‘Elephant Man’ who was born in Leicester and the horrendous experiences he had once he left school at 13 and was forced into the ‘work house’ Joseph dies at the early age of 27, thank goodness we have moved on and things have changed in the 21st century.
Motions Section 1 – Industrial Issues
- This motion from the DAC was to support a change in sick absence polices for disabled people in BT to prevent people from being rushed through processes and treated harshly and exited from the business without adjustments to procedures. – I supported this motion on behalf of the DAC. - CARRIED
- Royal Mail - On mental health and previous motions passed not being carried out by the business, need for more education for reps and employer. Also high light mental health issues in the workplace and promote various campaigns including the disability cars for employees – CARRIED
- Royal Mail – issues with people being pushed out of work and medically retire or even sacked when either having a disability or underlying health problem. Incorrect questions being asked by the manager when requesting an OHS report which are misleading to the examiner. Not using reasonable adjustments as per the Equality Act legislation. - CARRIED
Motions Section 2- National Issues
- Access to Work- Adapting existing vehicles for work for disabled people to be able to drive in their job. Using Access to work and Enable to get help and advice for the member to stay in work, also making access to public transport better – Mark from the DAC, when moving this motion, referred to my previous article in the DIF (Disability In Focus) magazine on Public transport. - CARRIED
- Access to Mobility Aids – Moved by myself on behalf of the DAC to highlight that recent changes have meant that over 17,000 people have already lost their mobility aids such as cars, wheelchairs and scooters. This could increase to over 100,000 with 40% already losing their cars in the UK - CARRIED
- FELL – NO ONE FROM BRANCH ATTENDED CONFERENCE
- Recreational access – e.g. cinema films having sub title options for the hard of hearing access to football stadiums and concerts, even now many social events are not fully accessible for disabled people. - CARRIED
- This motion was about the wording on membership forms to allow people to indicate if they are disabled. Debate took place and people were still unable at the ‘words’ – LOST
- This motion was about helping and encouraging members to get more involved in Politics’ and take on roles as councillors or MP’s. We need people who experience disabilities and health issues to be involved in the decision making process.
Currently there are only 2 MP’s in parliament who have declared a disability! Angela Teeling from the NW rose to support this motion and spoke of Jack Astley MP who was profoundly deaf and there is now a school in Widnes in his name. – CARRIED
Guest Speaker- Charlie Balch - Royal Mail – Professional Driver
Charlie gave a very emotional speech about men’s mental health issues and potential suicide and he told his story and survival of a suicide attempt and the aftermath. He spoke of RAMS- Raise Awareness of Male Suicide and ‘It’s OK to talk’ # Facebook. Suicide rates and deaths are much higher in men than women and young men aged 18-25 are particularly vulnerable.
- This is the same motion as submitted into the Black Workers conference yesterday for the Chair of the DAC to also submit a report at conference to highlight the work done throughout the 2-year term period of the DAC –
- Request for a one-day course for rep’s on Disability awareness and reasonable adjustments to be held around the UK and utilising the URL learning centres. - CARRIED
Guest Speaker – Paul Malony And Steve Reid Royal Mail
This was a very emotional appearance and speech from both Paul and Steve about his traumatic time after being seriously injured in a criminal attack and his recovery with help from his unions friends and colleagues.
I was lucky enough to know Paul and sat next to him in my weeks Disability Champions course and it was a shock to see him now but also inspirational to see how he is determined to recover and get through this stage by stage. Paul also has a disabled wife – who has suffered from MS for over 10 years and is also wheelchair bound and came to conference with his daughters to support him. Thankfully Paul has not lost his wicked sense of humour!
- IBS- this motion spoke about people suffering from this medical condition and side effects which can affect them in work especially around toilet visits – CARRIED
- Communications – this is about even the CWU as well as employers being conscious when communicating and thinking about using subtitles on videos and media. Also to promote positive coverage and articles to show that we support disabled people and put a positive message across at all times. Also raise awareness of campaigns and special days such as Deaf Awareness Day – CARRIED
Education- Lee Wakefield
I talk was given about the education department and updates on government grants and cuts to the education spending and how this will affect learning at work and ULR’s and courses. Also he spoke about the aging membership and concerns of moving forward and looking to the future for the union and the mentor scheme, at present only 2% of reps are under 30 years old.
Dying To Work – Lee Baron
A presentation was given from the TUC to raise awareness of this campaign to allow people with terminal illness to have the right to carry on working – as yet there is no law to protect people from being sacked when they are terminally ill.
We saw a video of Jacci Woodcock who had a dreadful experience when she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and the way she was treated by her employer and HR.
Already several companies have signed up to this campaign including big companies like EON but we need the companies we present to get on board in advance of legislation being introduced. We need to lobby MP’S and our union needs to approach Royal Mail and BT add to the list.
Please see website www.dyingtowork.co.uk or #dyingtowork for more information and sign the petition.
Conference closed after another fantastic day of debate on many emotive and emotional topics with excellent guest speakers and proof of the work the DAC does and the Equality Dept and how important the Disability Conference is to try and change and make improvements for our Disabled members.