A militant National Union of Teachers (NUT) Annual Conference in Torquay on Monday voted to defend disabled people against the attacks of the coalition and to continue the union’s fight against racism.
Conference passed Motion 50 ‘Disabled People and the Coalition Government’ moved by the Disabled Teachers Conference.
The motion stated: ‘Conference is most concerned at the attack on the independence and welfare of disabled people launched by the Coalition Government.
‘Currently there are at least 14 separate cuts and attempts to reduce the benefits that millions of disabled people rely upon to counter the barriers of a disabling society, discrimination and the resultant poverty they face.
‘Conference notes that incapacity benefit and disability living allowance were introduced to take account of the extra costs of being disabled in our society and that these barriers have not significantly reduced.
‘Conference is particularly concerned about the use of the Work Capability Assessment which is a computer tick box scheme which is leading to 40% of claimants losing their benefit and that everyone on Disability Living Allowance will now be medically assessed.
‘Conference is of the view that this unprecedented attack on disabled people is a breach of international human rights and in particular the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities ratified by the Government in July 2009.
‘Conference calls on the Executive to raise this matter with the Government and the TUC to seek an immediate moratorium on these harmful reductions.’
Commenting after the debate on Motion 50, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: ‘Teachers highlighted today the challenges faced by disabled teachers and disabled people in wider society.
‘Disabled teachers have the right to work. They also provide excellent role models to students and illustrate that disabled children should aspire to independent living and playing a full role in society.
‘Government plans to make teachers pay more, work longer and get less in retirement will have a disproportionate effect on disabled teachers.
‘It is not realistic for most teachers to contemplate being in front of a class at 68 years old. For many disabled teachers this is simply impossible, as some have an impairment or illness which limits the quality and length of life.
‘In this economic climate many disabled job applicants face significant barriers. Access to Work funding must be retained so that reasonable adjustments for disabled workers can be funded.’
Earlier delegates passed Motion 48 ‘Resisting Racism’, moved by East London division and seconded by Hackney.
This stated: ‘Conference congratulates all those involved in anti-racist and anti-fascist actions whose protests have prevented the intimidation of communities by far right groups.
‘Conference notes that the Union, at all levels, has been at the heart of such organising and that our Union has a well-deserved reputation for challenging racism and fascism at every turn.
‘This is in contrast to the actions and statements of many in power in this country and elsewhere who criticise and blame minority groups for failures of government, adding to the vilification they already suffer.
‘Conference, therefore, believes that the Union should not support calls for the banning of demonstrations and rallies organised by the far-right but instead should continue to support mass mobilisations, locally and nationally.
‘Recent bans of this kind have led to wider bans which have prevented legitimate democratic actions taking place and place the defence of our multi-cultural communities in the hands of authorities whose actions have either increased, or failed to address, the racism and division in society.
‘This Conference believes that such bans are also likely to be used against trade unions and other organisations thereby impeding our ability to defend our members and their livelihoods.’
Commenting after the debate on Motion 48, NUT general secretary Blower said: ‘The NUT has worked for decades to combat racist and fascist groups in society.
‘Our successes in routing the BNP in Barking & Dagenham and Stoke-on-Trent during the 2010 election show that a real difference can be made. This comes from a concerted effort by organisations and communities working together to promote and celebrate our diverse society.
‘The contributions of NUT members to our political fund – set up to campaign against racist and fascist parties at election times – allows us to sponsor the vital work of organisations such as HOPE not Hate, Unite against Fascism, Show Racism the Red Card, Love Music Hate Racism and Kick it Out.
‘Experience shows us that, when there is an economic downturn, it is black and minority ethnic communities in particular who bear the brunt and are scapegoated by sections of society.
‘The NUT will continue to support campaigns to defend black communities and fight for the provision that is rightfully theirs.’
Delegates went on to vote for Motion 49 ‘Racist Abuse and Discriminatory Practices’ from the Black Teachers Conference.
This stated: ‘Conference is extremely concerned about the reported increase in racist abuse that black teachers are facing in schools.
‘There is some concern that this behaviour, albeit by a minority of students, is having psychological effects on black teachers that is affecting their classroom performance and leading to capability issues.
‘Conference calls upon the Executive to:
‘1. Carry out a survey to investigate how widespread this abuse is;
‘2. Investigate any links between such behaviour and instances of under-performance and/or competence issues affecting black members in schools; and
‘3. Produce guidelines to help tackle this problem by:
‘(i) Suggesting ways to support such colleagues; and
‘(ii) Producing material that can be used to educate the perpetrators in order to correct their behaviour.’
Commenting after the debate on Motion 49, Blower said: ‘The NUT is resolute in its determination to address issues of inequality in education.
‘Conference is highlighting a significant concern among black teachers that capability procedures are increasingly used disproportionately against them.
‘This is a disturbing trend and with this motion we can start to shine a light on how commonplace this chain of events has become.
‘Schools and local authorities are not specifically required to monitor or provide monitoring statistics for incidents of racist abuse. As a consequence there is scant information on the extent of racist abuse in schools. This is wholly unacceptable.
‘Government must reconsider the clear need for data gathering on this issue, to assist in calling schools, local authorities and other public bodies to account. All of us must ensure that every school is free from racism and its damaging effects.’