Equipping our stewards to support our disabled members

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2019 National Disabled Members' Conference
12 July 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the fantastic standard of support and training for our shop stewards across the UK, and would like to see this enhanced with the addition of some disability-specific training.

As disability activists we may well be aware of landmark case law that affects our disabled members in the workplace, but many of our shop steward colleagues are not. As a result, we run the risk of failing to deliver the best possible representation, advice and support to our disabled members.

The House of Lords has ruled that “the positive duty to make reasonable adjustments under the disability discrimination legislation may extend to positively discriminating in favour of disabled people.” This was a significant victory for disabled workers that continues to be the case today.

In workplaces across the country conversations on reasonable adjustments happen every day yet our Disabled Members still find themselves subjected to the formal attendance process simply because they are disabled. Some employers refuse to make reasonable adjustments and, in at least one case that we are aware of, a public sector employer said “Archibald v Fife doesn’t apply to us”.

Equipping our stewards with disability specific information, such as case law briefings, could help our stewards to better support our members, and ensure that those hard fought for, hard earned rights are nor eroded by employers struggling to understand what the duty to make reasonable adjustments actually means.

Conference notes UNISON’s new ‘Stewards Guide – Representing Deaf (Native BSL) Members’ which has been developed to assist stewards in representing and organising Deaf members in the workplace and is an additional tool in our stewards’ armoury as we seek to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to support all of our disabled members.

Conference calls upon the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1)Work with the NEC and the Learning and Organising Section (LAOS) to develop training on disability specific employment issues for inclusion in the organising stewards training.

2)Identify a way of providing relevant updates to all stewards on new disability discrimination case law and when it may apply;

3)Identify other support that can be offered to help stewards who are supporting disabled members including the possibility of a mentoring scheme.

4) Publicise UNISON’s new stewards guide to representing Deaf members and call on regions and branches to use the guide in seeking to ensure our Deaf members get the best representation possible from their union.