Employer Recognition of Branch Self-Organised Disabled Members’ Groups

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2002 National Disabled Members' Conference
26 October 2002

The National Disabled Members’ Committee is concerned that employers such as Birmingham City Council do not recognise UNISON’s self-organised groups. As a result members are not allowed paid time off to attend meetings during work time.

For the disabled members’ group this makes it difficult for members to get involved and to play an active part in trying to raise disability issues within UNISON. It is not always possible to meet outside work time for a number of reasons such as; individual access requirements, family care responsibilities or other personal commitments.

In some cases however, disabled employee groups are set up and recognised by employers and disabled employees are able to meet in work’s time to discuss disability-related issues. For example, employers use these groups for consultation on matters such as the Two Ticks Scheme to preserve their status about positive employment policies yet they do very little to introduce measures that can be used to eradicate institutional disability discrimination at work. Work-based consultation groups do not demonstrate any real support to disabled people; they are not recognised for negotiating purposes. They are not democratic and they are rarely supported by the employer with necessary support for individuals’ access and facilitation requirements.

These employee groups do not have access to the same structures that UNISON does, and are not in a position to effect change as UNISON is.

Recent research shows that all workers are better off if they are members of a Union:

1)You have the legal right to be accompanied by a trade union representative if you have a workplace grievance or if you are facing disciplinary action;

2)Trade union collective bargaining produces a better rate of pay for workers. Average earnings are around 8 per cent higher in workplaces where the bulk of the workforce is covered by collective bargaining;

3)Black and asian trade unionists earn almost a third more than their non-union counterparts;

4)There is a bigger financial benefit for workers in the private sector – the trade union premium for gross hourly wages in the private sector where collective bargaining takes place is 17 per cent to 25 per cent. Women, ethnic minority workers and those suffering health problems benefit most from the trade union pay premium;

5)Workplaces are more likely to have a pension scheme where a trade union is recognised for the purposes of collective bargaining;

6)Workers in unionised workplaces are more likely to get sick pay paid at higher than the statutory minimum than workers employed in non-unionised workplaces;

7)The average trade union member in the United Kingdom gets 29 days’ annual leave a year compared with 23 days for non-union members;

8)Trade union members have better access to equal opportunities at work and family-friendly working. A study found that workplaces with union recognition were 20 per cent more likely to have an equal opportunities policy than workplaces where no union was recognised and 12 per cent more likely to have parental leave policies in place;

9)Trade union members are only half as likely to be sacked as non-members and if they do they get better compensation;

10)Unions also offer legal help in non-work related cases, such as claiming social security benefits, representation in road traffic cases, free wills to members and their families;

11)Union-supported claims to employment tribunals are more likely to succeed than cases without union backing. They also result in compensation worth up to twice as much as the average;

12)Workers in unionised workplaces are more likely to receive job-related training than those in non-unionised workplaces.

Disabled workers face isolation and discrimination; we need the collective strength, protection and support that comes from belonging to a trade union and influencing the bargaining agenda at work.

Therefore National Disabled Members’ Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

a)Embark on a new recruitment drive during 2003-2004 that encourages disabled workers to join UNISON;

b)Liaise with the service groups to open negotiations with employers to get recognition of UNISON’s self-organised groups;

b)Provide guidance to branches on negotiating for UNISON branch self-organised disabled members to be recognised by employers as the appropriate forum for consultation on disability related employment matters.