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To mark the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, CUPE is launching a new campaign to raise awareness about the rights all workers have: to be treated with respect and dignity, and to have disabilities accommodated at work by their employer.

A solidarity of abilities will help CUPE members across Canada understand how disabilities can affect them and their colleagues, and how the duty to accommodate – an important employer responsibility enshrined in Canadian law – can help improve working life.

Over the next several months, a member of CUPE’s Persons with Disabilities National Working Group, who championed the campaign, will present new information to raise awareness about disability issues and on the duty to accommodate.

The campaign will also strive to create relationships with disability rights organizations, and provide tools for bargaining and administering our collective agreements, so that the rights of our members with disabilities are understood and upheld.

Workers with disabilities include people with physical, mental, learning, and intermittent disabilities. These disabilities could have been incurred at birth, developed over time, or been the result of an accident. It is important that these workers know they have a legally-enforceable right to have their disability accommodated by their employer. That might include changes to the physical work environment, and being flexible with respect to tasks, assignments, schedules, and other working terms and conditions.

About 15 per cent of Canadians have a disability. So approximately 93,000 of CUPE’s 620,000 members may have some form of disability.

CUPE staff representatives and bargaining committees support members with disabilities by negotiating language on short-term disability, long-term disability, workers’ compensation top-up, occupational health and safety, and reinforcing the duty to accommodate.

But it is also important to remember each and every CUPE member could require some form of accommodation over the course of their working life. Members with disabilities have often pointed out, “We are the only equality-seeking group that you might be a member of tomorrow.”

There are many ways CUPE members can support and be involved in with A solidarity of abilities:

  • Get involved with activities in your region to promote the campaign and raise awareness about disability issues and rights. Start by getting in touch with the Persons with Disabilities National Working Group member for your region.
  • Are you a steward? There are two Steward Learning Series workshops that relate to disability rights: 1. Creating accommodation-friendly workplaces; 2. Disability issues for stewards.
  • CUPE staff also offer duty to accommodate courses. Check with your education representative to find out about courses offered in your region.
  • Let us know about your local’s bargaining successes on disability issues, and help inform our bargaining equality resources. Email us at equality@cupe.ca.
  • Work to ensure that every bargaining committee has a person with a disability on it. People with disabilities need to be reflected in all of our union structures.

Workers with disabilities have rights that CUPE is committed to protecting.  With this campaign, CUPE continues its work towards becoming a model organization, and a standard-bearer for accessibility and inclusion.

Related articles:

New this week: An accommodation-themed poster!

Celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities December 3