Over thirty delegates attended the RMT transport workers’ union’s 2021 Disabled Members’ Conference online on 17 and 18 April. The conference demanded that workplace accessibility be “as standard” not “as required”. An accessible job is one in which a disabled worker does not have to ask for adjustments, because barriers have already been removed.
With the pandemic and the economic crisis accompanying it, delegates acknowledged that disabled transport workers feel insecure in their jobs and that the union needs a concerted fightback which incorporates this and other equality issues.
Conference also passed resolutions on working hours, accessibility of replacement bus services, and involvement with TUC Disabled Workers.
On the first day, we had a live link-up with the Justice for Osime Brown protest taking place at the Home Office, with young RMT member Joe Booth explaining the case and enabling delegates to watch speeches.
Our guest speaker was Colleen Johnson, disabled members’ representative on the National Education Union (NEU) Executive. Colleen explained the issues facing disabled school workers during the pandemic, and answered questions about refusal to work on safety grounds, avoiding over-burdening children with “catch-up” and more. As two sets of frontline workers, disabled transport and school workers found that we have a lot in common.
Many delegates welcomed the comradely atmosphere at the event, feeling able to disagree knowing that this would lead to a constructive discussion rather than personal abuse. Several pointed out that RMT as a whole could learn from this.
Janine Booth and David King were re-elected as Secretary and Chair respectively.