Disability news

ELECTION 2024: Labour warned to keep their promises to disabled people

Vicky Foxcroft

The Labour Party has been warned that if they win the general election and break the promises they have made to improve the lives of disabled people they will be challenged by trade unionists.

Disabled Union members are encouraging activists to put pressure on the opposition to expend its existing pledge supporting people with disabilities into employment.

They are also calling for Labour to include its general election manifesto measures in the Disability Employment Charter which was founded by organisations such as Disability Rights UK, UNISON and the Disability@Work group of academics

Lola Oyewusi, a UNISON delegate, told the TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference in Liverpool: “To win for disabled workers is very paramount to the success of a Labour government.

“If Labour does not deliver for disabled workers, we will definitely hold them to account.”

Oyewusi went on to caution shadow minister for disabled people Vicky Foxcroft [pictured above] if Labour come into power and she keeps her role, the unions will “surely make sure she delivers”.

Foxcroft has promised a pledge to force larger employees on their disability pay gaps, reform the current Disability Confident Scheme and make vital changes to the Access to Work scheme to make it easier for disabled employees to secure reasonable adjustments.

Lee Starr-Elliott, a delegate from the Communication Workers Union, told the conference: “It is now imperative that we rid ourselves of the Tories.

“However, it’s just as important that the Labour party is held to account and does not repeat or continue the mistakes that the current government is making.”

He added: “Attacks on Deaf and disabled people and workers must be stopped, and we need a Labour party that embraces and works with disabled people and groups to make the change for the better.

“Access to Work, disability benefits and many other programmes must be fixed, and the rights of disabled people and workers must be strengthened, especially in employment, where we are seeing the biggest number of attacks from both the employer and the DWP.

“Labour must also be held to account and committed to being a leading figure in disability issues, both nationally and internally.”

Philip Blundell, a Unite delegate, urged Labour to stand with the union movement.

But he warned the party “Don’t do it and you’re part of the enemy and we will come for you.”

He told delegates: “Go back to your workplaces, ask people to vote Labour, then we’ll hold them to account.

“And if they don’t bring in, within the first 100 days, what they said they were going to do, we will hold them to account. We will march.”

Alison Gaughan, from the University and College Union, told fellow delegates: “I want to see the back of the Tories as much as anybody.

“However, I’m sceptical about how much will change when Labour come to power.

“I welcome the promises that we’ve heard from Labour. I hope they will come to pass, but I’m not holding my breath.”

She added: “We know that we live in a system where if the needs of disabled people come up against the interests of capital, capital will win.

“We shouldn’t forget that the Labour party has committed to the same economic rules as the Tories adhere to.

“Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has repeatedly emphasised her commitment to so-called fiscal responsibility, and she cosies up to business leaders.

“The TUC must hold Labour to all their promises on disability, and more.

“We want full equality for disabled people and a full commitment to the Disability

Employment Charter and the UNCRPD [ UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ].”

Just two out of 187 organisations unions represented at the conference had signed up to the charter.

Ian Thomas, from the PCS union, said:  “If we all… go back to our own unions and say, ‘Why haven’t you signed it yet?’ that action alone would really boost the visible sign that we as trade unions are signed up to the Disability Employment Charter, that we want to see a workplace where disability employment rights are recognised by the employers that we are negotiating with.”

Dougie Johnstone, representing the bakers union BFAWU, urged Labour to ignore “nice headlines you’ll get in the Tory rags” and “be the party that says, ‘I will stand up for everyone.’”

[ Victoria Foxcroft experienced abuse during her childhood. ]

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