Wednesday 29 March 2023

Civic reception to celebrate Year of Disabled Workers

Following a request from Aberdeen Trades Union Council, Aberdeen City Council held a special event at the Beach Ballroom on Tuesday 28th March to mark 2022 - The Year of Disabled Workers.

The event was due to be held back in December 2022 but had to be postponed due to bad weather.

Photos by Norman Adam

Employers and workers were invited to celebrate disabled workers at the special free event, with the aim of gaining practical insights into recruiting, retaining and including disabled people at work, and to learn about the advice and support available to employers and employees to help organisations become more inclusive.
As the Lord Provost of Aberdeen said: "An inclusive workplace brings benefits across the board – for employees, customers, the organisation, and across the wider city."

ATUC Vice-president, Kathleen Kennedy, spoke at the event and thanked Aberdeen City Council for hosting the event at the request of ATUC.

Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen, who has cerebral palsy, spoke about her experience in the workplace. She said, "When I was 16 I applied to be one of 10 disabled people that Grampian Regional Council was taking on every year."

Her first job was ripping stamps off envelopes and shredding paper in the basement, but it was a job and she also went to college a day a week.

"After 6 months or so I moved to Woodhill to input data. Then I was moved to public transport unit for 6 weeks to finish my year, but that year is 30 years in July," added Kathleen.

After various administrative jobs then started helping someone with school transport invoices and when they left she took over, tailoring the job to her needs.

Everything was going great, but when her boss changed, Kathleen knew she had to join the union, as things had changed. 
"Six months later, suddenly I am told you aren't doing enough AND the council was taking in a new invoice system and the saving was 'one job' - mines. I found out by chance through other colleagues. 

"However, the union stepped in and eventually my job didn't go. We fought hard and we won.

"That was in 2010 when the Tories brought in the Equalities Act and that 'watered down ' disabled people rights more than the Disability Discrimination Act. I was also studying for a degree in OU. 

"I started to get involved with the union after finishing my degree. To begin with I was given same facility time as the other union reps. Then suddenly as a 'reasonable adjustment' that was cut to 10 half days. The union argued against it, but that was it."

Kathleen spoke of how she had developed her role in UNISON becoming a member of the Scottish disabled members' and then the national disabled members' committees. Without facility time she was using up her holidays. 

"Staff were cut back and the job demands increased. I had a small stroke."

Kathleen recovered but explained how, the year she was ATUC president, she lost her job because she spoke about this at her union conference - "Why wouldn't I?" she asked.

She explained how she won her appeal with UNISON support and was reinstated with a new line manager. UNISON supported her to take her case to an employment tribunal where she won a settlement. "I was given an apology and a secondment."

"I'm back in the council now doing the invoices. The first year there were still issues with my union time but we are working it out now. My team now is wonderful and I am not just saying that. They are"

Kathleen ended: "What my story says to employers and managers is look what the disabled person can do, not what they can't. To anyone disabled remember the title of my second book 'Yes I can and I will'