Socialist Worker

Remploy workers walk out to save their jobs and factories

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2312

Remploy picket line in Pontefract today (Pic: Ged Colgan)

Remploy picket line in Pontefract today (Pic: Ged Colgan)

Disabled workers took to picket lines to fight for their jobs today, Thursday. It was the first of two 24-hour strikes by Remploy workers in the Unite and GMB unions.

Today’s strike took place at the Remploy’s 54 sites across the country. The second is due next Thursday.

Last week the government announced that 27 factories will close by the end of the year, throwing around 1,700 disabled workers out-of-work. Some have a matter of weeks left.

Tim, a GMB member in Derby, told Socialist Worker “We’re fighting for the dignity that bringing home a wage brings. What the Tories did last week was spiteful.”

A further nine factories will probably be sold off to private firms with no guarantees of job security. The remaining 18 sites are due to close next year.

Clara was on the picket line in Barking, east London. “The way the closure has been dealt with is shoddy to say the least,” she said.

“We don’t see why it has to close. Remploy isn’t just for the people who are here now—it’s for the future. What else can we do but strike?”

The Remploy workers have faced years of uncertainty. Factories started to close under the previous Labour government. Now the Tories are trying to abolish Remploy all together.

» Reports and pictures from around the country

The government claims people can use “access to work” payments to replace the Remploy jobs. But as Paul, a Remploy worker from Burnley, pointed out, “The Tories talk about ‘access to work’ as a replacement—but people need jobs to join the programme, and they are sacking us.”

Alan on the Barking picket line said, “I’ve worked here for 13 years. I’m bitter and angry at the way we’ve constantly been failed and let down by both Remploy and the government.”

Around the country workers from other unions brought solidarity. In Barking the post wasn’t delivered, while bus and lorry drivers tooted their horns in support. Council workers and teachers sent delegations to join the picket lines.

Gareth is a GMB steward in Birkenhead on Merseyside. He told Socialist Worker, “There are people who have worked here for 35 years. They want to keep working but they know nothing else. A lot of people will be thrown on the scrapheap—but you have to resist.”

Many workers are angry that the compulsorily redundancy pay will be less than in previous rounds of voluntary redundancies.

Mark, a GMB rep at the Barking plant, said, “They say it costs £25,000 per disabled person to keep the jobs. But over 400 senior managers are on salaries of £40,000 to £60,000. That money could be used for our jobs instead.

“There’s nothing left but to take action. We’re angry. It’s better to live one day as a lion than a lifetime as a sheep.”

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