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NUJ at TUC disabled workers' conference 2014

11 June 2014

The TUC disabled workers' conference was held at TUC Congress House, London on Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 May. Day 1 opened with a keynote speech from Kate Green MP, shadow spokesperson for disabled people. Day 2 opened with a spirited plenary session on disabled people fighting back led by panel speakers John McDonnell MP (and secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group), Ellen Clifford (Disabled People against Cuts) and Gabriel Pepper (campaigner for Independent Living Fund). 

Twenty motions – including emergency motions on the Independent Living Fund and cuts to disabled students' allowance – were moved and debated on by 207 disabled workers from the NUJ and 24 sister unions.

NUJ delegates Ann Galpin, Mick Gosling, Eleanor Lisney, Mike Smith and Guy Thornton took turns in speaking on issues of concern to disabled journalists: mental health, workplace bullying and harrassment, sickness absence management when relating to disability; supporting disabled members; transport cuts; zero hours contracts. Mike Smith moved the NUJ motion on ethical journalism.

Conference also elected NUJ members Ann Galpin and Eleanor Lisney to serve on the TUC disabled workers' committee for 2014-15. Ann, who is chair of NUJ disabled members' council, was re-elected to this TUC decision-making body for a fifth consecutive term. Eleanor, a fellow member of NUJ disabled members' council, was elected unopposed to the reserved women's seat.

NUJ member John Coghlan of Disability Aid Abroad introduced a short film of Ugandan trade union representatives speaking at a disability champions seminar in Kampala in 2013.

NUJ motion on ethical journalism

NEC member and NUJ disabled members' committee vice chair Mike Smith moved the NUJ motion which emphasised the importance of ensuring third party redress under any new press complaints system as this has proved a major problem for disabled people and disability groups who have suffered from unethical reporting.

Mike Smith raised the problems of media ownership, lack of plurality and the reduction of broadcast provision across nations and regions, in a question to John McDonnell, the secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group during a panel session at the conference. John McDonnell took up the opportunity to highlight the union's work in parliament on press reform.

In moving the motion Mike gave a brief update on the post Leveson developments but said that rather than going through all the details of the employers’ attempts to water down any new system, he would use the time to give a list of practical measures delegates to the conference could do. These ranged from lobbying MPs, engaging with the media through complaining directly, including the BBC, using letters pages, using social media to comment on journalists articles (but always remaining polite and constructive) and checking journalists’ NUJ credentials and being aware of the NUJ code of conduct.

Mike also urged delegates to back to their unions and organisations and contact either local NUJ branches or the union’s councils to look at possibilities of setting up social enterprises and co-operatives, ensure their own people doing media work were NUJ members (including freelance writers and photographers) and whether their staff doing their media and comms work could be NUJ members.

The motion was seconded by Equity and passed unanimously.

Other motions passed included:

Conference deplores the government’s continuing assault on disabled people. The “reform” of welfare benefits means:

  • The continuation of the Work Capability Assessments administered by ATOS for the DWP, leading to many wrong decisions and significant loss of benefits for many disabled people unable to work
  • The change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment designed explicitly to remove payments from thousands of disabled people
  • The impact of the “bedroom tax”, cut in legal aid, the cap on housing benefit and many other cuts on people already living on the breadline
  • The closure of Remploy factories leaving disabled people previously employed in properly paid manufacturing jobs without work.

Conference condemns the government’s imposition of a cap on welfare benefits and the Labour leadership’s support for this; and congratulates those Labour MPs who voted against it.

Conference welcomes the campaigning by disabled people themselves against these attacks, congratulates Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) for its high-profile activities and its solidarity with Remploy workers, and calls on the TUC to:

  • Highlight the negative impact of government policy on disabled people both in and out of work
  • Encourage trade union branches to give active support to local campaigns by disabled people, especially those led by disabled people themselves
  • Lobby the Labour Party to reverse these measures when in Government.

 TUC disabled members committee report to conference.

Tags: , disability, disabled members, disabled members council, tuc, tuc congress, ethics