Socialist Worker

Remploy workers protest to stop factory closures

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2300

Remploy workers protesting in London (Pic: Michael Bradley)

Remploy workers protesting in London (Pic: Michael Bradley)


Hundreds of Remploy workers demonstrated outside government offices in London and Sheffield on Friday of last week.

The GMB and Unite union members are fighting government plans to close 36 out of 54 Remploy factories.

This would threaten more than 1,700 staff with compulsory redundancy, including 1,500 disabled workers.

In Sheffield a lively march by workers was backed by Sheffield TUC and other unions including the PCS.

Lifesize cardboard cutout images of David Cameron and Nick Clegg attended—and were loudly booed throughout.

Speakers at an indoor rally at Sheffield town hall included GMB general secretary Paul Kenny.

He said the closure plan was discrimination against disabled people.

Other speakers included Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield and a local Labour councillor.

The biggest cheer went to Gareth Lane from the new Unite community section.

He called for occupations of factories and for the unions to target strikes at the Olympics.

Sean McGovern, a Unite member who used to work in a Remploy factory in Brixton, joined the protest in London.

He said, “There is a feeling of fear and trepidation among workers who’ve been betrayed by the government.”

Mark Holloway works at Remploy’s electronics factory in Barking.

He said, “I’d never get another job in mainstream employment. I’m here fighting for my job, for all our jobs.

“Anyone who says discrimination against disabled people does not exist any more is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Unite representative Colin Hanley said, “We’re going to the rally to put as much pressure on the government as possible.”

The last Labour government started the closures of Remploy factories.

They, like the Tories, claimed jobs would be absorbed into mainstream employment.

But union figures show 90 percent of those who lost their jobs when the Remploy factories closed have never worked since.

The workers’ next move will be a mass lobby of Parliament on 9 May. But many agreed that they should take action with workers fighting for their pensions the day after—10 May.


Edinburgh

Around 60 workers from Scottish Remploy factories joined an upbeat, noisy demo in Edinburgh on Friday of last week.

Derek Milligan, GMB shop steward, Remploy Dundee


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Tue 24 Apr 2012, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2300
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