Disabled staff have the right to work
We call upon NHS Newham to immediately provide UNISON activist Elane Heffernan with the same working conditions enjoyed by her team mate. This is necessary so that she can work and run the well respected Migrant Advice & Advocacy Service. We also demand that employer Newham Council stop forcing her to work in conditions that cause severe pain and exacerbate her disability Elane, who is employed by Newham Council, but is funded by the PCT, works on a PCT project and has been line managed by the PCT. She was one of the main organisers of the campaign to stop Newham Council’s union busting and was elected UNISON branch chair in 2008/2009. Elane had an accident at work and now needs voice activated software, a reasonably well set up desk and telephone headset. Elane has been placed in such bad working conditions that she was signed off sick repeatedly—making her unavailable to union members and at risk of being sacked for sickness absence. Emails between the PCT manager and the council’s HR refer to special preparations for sickness absence meetings because of her union role following the manager sending Elane home sick. After a long fight to get adaption’s, Elane returned to work in October 2009. She was then subject to a growing campaign of harassment and victimisation by managers. This included written instructions not to use the disability adapted equipment provided and use pen and paper at improperly adapted desks when seeing patients. When occupational health recommended an end to these work instructions in December 2009, Elane was simply suspended by NHS Newham managers on allegations of misconduct. Elane was eventually reinstated but has been forced to work in isolation in conditions that are extremely difficult—which appears designed to force her resignation or permanent exclusion on disability grounds. Elane has an excellent work reputation and has been praised for her work, but is now told she is too difficult to manage. Her inability to attend work robs council workers of an effective rep and damages the MAAP service on which some of the most vulnerable people in Newham rely. On the principle that disabled people have a right to work and union busting should be resisted Elane works when possible in damaging conditions. We demand that this victimisation ends and NHS Newham and the council take seriously their commitment to equality and the rights of disabled workers and reinstate Elane to her team office where adapted equipment can function and to the full duties from which she was suspended in December 2009. Both organisations claim to support disabled staff but Elane still does not have the necessary adaption’s to work relatively pain free, because she has been a union rep that Newham Council think is too uncompromising in standing up for the members rights.