Disabled members delivering public services in times of austerity

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2015 National Disabled Members' Conference
3 July 2015

Conference condemns the continued attacks on the funding of public services.

Austerity cuts are providing an environment for employers to continue to cut/reduce vital services, outsource services, or develop shared services with other public bodies and private organisations.

The cuts are being used as a reason by employers to increase the use volunteers, have continual reorganisations of staffing structures and reductions of staff.

UNISON’s experience teaches us that outsourcing, privatisation and shared services does not always reap the rewards of reducing costs and improving services that employers claim. In fact the quality of service normally suffers especially when the private sector is involved.

Public services are under attack on many fronts, and any attempts to undermine its importance must remain a priority for our union. We must fight to protect local democratic accountability and the services our members provide to the communities where they live, work and serve.

Government plans for continuing job losses in the public sector (where a higher proportion of disabled people work) mean there is no prospect of improvement. Among disabled people who do have jobs, a much higher proportion than non-disabled people, work part-time, and in lower-paid jobs.

Conference, we already know that the previous coalition government’s attack imposed since 2010 have brought massive suffering to millions of people. Disabled people are among the very worst hit.

Conference, our members face mass redundancies, and for those that do manage to retain a job, there is an onslaught of attacks of terms and conditions, as well as increased workload and the impact of that increased workload is likely to be greater for disabled people particularly when the employers mind set is based on the Medical not Social model of disability.

Conference we believe there could have an increased mental health impact on disabled workers having to deliver public service cuts arising from discriminatory Tory ideology. For example disabled workers, who have managed to keep their jobs in adult social care, are at the sharp end of reducing or removing services to disabled people. This of course impacts on them, their stress levels and ultimately may force them to leave the public service or become mentally or physically unwell when faced with the challenge of working in a way that fundamentally offends them and challenges their personal value base.

Conference, the union must stand up for disabled workers facing discrimination in the workplace whether this is through misuse of sickness absence procedures where an absence was related to disability, or unfair selection for redundancy, or failure to provide proper adjustments enabling the worker to do the job.

Conference calls on the National Disabled members committee to work with Service Groups, the NEC, Labour link, Regions and branches to continue to:-

1.Provide guidance and support to branches and regional campaigns on fighting the cuts with links to relevant disability campaigning groups

2.Defend member’s jobs and terms and conditions in light of the cuts

3.Provide guidance to branches on using the Equality Act to ensure that the union stands up for disabled workers facing discrimination in the workplace

4. Provide and distribute UNISON’s definition of the Social model of disability, working with Learning and Organising Services (LAOS) to ensure that our relevant courses reflect the social model of disability

5. Build union membership and organisation amongst disabled people in the workplace

6. Work with other Trade Union groupings via the TUC structures, particularly in the run up towards local elections