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Disabled workers – Stronger with equality

The theme of the Scottish TUC disabled workers conference this weekend is “Stronger with Equality” and the wider representation of workers from many unions across the Scottish economy stands testament to the living truth of that statement.

I spoke to older delegates, who like me, sometimes feel like we are back in the 1980s in our fight for equality in the workplace and in society. The TrumpTory dystopia is in fact even worse than anything Thatcher could have dreamed of.

The dismantled benefit system stigmatises disabled people and imposes poverty. Pernicious discrimination in the labour market locks too many out of work. Workplace practices and policies expect maximum worker flexibility – casualised careers, zero hours contracts, absence management and growing pressures of presenteeism.

I apologised to younger delegates, on behalf of my generation of trade unionists. We thought we would have won many of these battles by now and would be passing on to them more equal times with greater understanding and awareness of our diversity.

our post-MeToo world is one where where women, black, disabled and LGBT people speaking up are shouted down by President of the USA and his chorus of haters the world over.

It is power and exclusion that fuels a MeFirst lads culture in our workplaces and social spaces. Even in our virtual life, social media trolls hunt down women, disabled people. LGBT+ and black activists for special abuse.

But you know what? My generation can not make that change FOR the next. But together all of us can exercise power of workers, of all ages coming together in our unions to drive that change.

Our hope and our determination is in our movement for it is like no other, and when we do come together our collective power is immense.

Striking women workers electrified our movement last month when 8,000 women in Glasgow shut down the city. The same week over 30,000 Scottish teachers, mostly young women marched for a 10% pay rise.

The conference is debating matters that stretch way beyond the workplace and addresses us as whole workers

⁃ accessible homes
⁃ social model of mental health
⁃ menopause and disability
⁃ home care packages and hospital stays
⁃ dementia and carers
⁃ benefits
⁃ city centre and sporting venues access

All of these concerns are just as important to us during working hours as they are on the bus, in the supermarket, in the house, in church or in the pub.

When you listen, like I do, to the quiet conversations between workers, they know what is right and what is wrong in the workplace and in society. What the bosses and the government don’t latch on to is that workers when asked the right question do come together and force change. That determination and commitment we need to harness that as the biggest collective organisation of workers.

Workers’ wages now just won’t stretch to the end of month. Chancellor budget gave nothing for workers and nothing for in-work poverty, nothing for the disabled and nothing for working people at all. Austerity isn’t ending

If this Govenrment survives the weekend , their Brexit leaves us with so much uncertainty. What we really need is to vote all of them out in a general election now.