This week the MU attended TUC’s Disabled Workers Conference, which ran Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 July in Bournemouth.
MU member Nigel Braithwaite spoke in support of our motion on accessible public transport, in light of recent proposals to close 1,000 rail ticket offices across the UK. The motion, which passed, called on the TUC Disabled Workers Committee and on the TUC to:
- Campaign for fully staffed public transport networks
- Campaign for investment to ensure transport fully meets the needs of disabled people
- Continue to oppose Government cuts that leave the railways inaccessible and unsafe
- Lobby the government to speed up the delivery of the Access for All Program
- Write to the Department for Transport to oppose the expansion of DOO (Driver Only Operation)
- Write to train operators and the Office for Road and Rail to raise concerns around current DOO services which are in contravention of the equalities act
- Support ASLEF’s Invest in Rail campaign which calls for a truly accessible network with step free access across the network.
“Understaffed stations and trains have a disproportionate impact on disabled passengers and night-time workers”
As well as taking part in a panel organised by The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) to discuss the closure of railway ticket offices and the impact that will have on disabled rail users, Nigel also shared his own experiences with conference.
During his speech he discussed his recent, first hand experience, of needing to access a railway ticket office. He also explained how understaffed stations and trains have a disproportionate impact on disabled passengers and night-time workers – like our MU members - who rely on station staff and guards on trains to help them feel safe and offer assistance. He added that: “Staff at stations and on trains are a vital first point of contact for disabled passengers who require assistance. An accessible transport system is a key pillar in the journey to independent living”.
Additionally in Nigel’s speech, he stated how freelance musicians can be vulnerable when using public transport late at night, saying: “We rely on staff being there for us when travelling by rail with our instruments - essential to our trade”.
During the conference, Nigel also spoke in support of a motion from the Public and Commercial Services Union on discriminatory balloting laws. He highlighted how the 2016 Trade Union Act restricts the way in which Industrial Action ballots are conducted to postal only voting, and the disproportionate impact this has on disabled people and people in rural locations.
Defending the rights of disabled freelance musicians
MU delegate Fiona Branson spoke on a motion from Unite on defending the rights of disabled workers post COVID lockdown, and raised the specific issues that freelancers face now and during the pandemic.
Fiona reminded conference how many freelance disabled musicians did not receive support during lockdowns. She also highlighted how some musicians are now working to support people experiencing symptoms of long COVID, by teaching the breathing techniques practised by professional opera singers, such as the Breath Cycle programme run by Scottish Opera.
Fiona also spoke in support of the NEU’s motion on the need for more disabled workers in education, where she highlighted the importance of visible role models for disabled people, teachers and students.