There are 46 Remploy workers at the Bridgend factory and most of them were on the picket line this morning.
Bridgend is one the factories that has been put up for sale. Workers have been told that bids have been made, but they do not know who from or on what terms.
Management are refusing to say anything until the end of August. “It’s very stressful,” said Mike, one of the workers. “Some people might transfer, while others might be made redundant.”
The factory has two contracts. One is for recycling mattresses—the springs go for scrap and the rest for animal bedding. They receive around 60 mattresses a day from the council recycling depot.
The other contract is to assemble car parts from the Bridgend Ford factory. The workers say the fact they’ve won contracts from private industry shows that their factories are viable.
“The government claims we need a huge subsidy, but that’s because of the inverted structure of Remploy management,” Mike explained. “It’s like an upside-down pyramid. They’ve deliberately run down the factories but kept on a huge number of managers.”
But this isn’t just about the jobs. “There’s going to be a big effect on the carers,” said John, another worker. “These are usually parents or grandparents. If Remploy closes they will have to look after someone an extra 40 hours a week. There will be no respite.
“We look after people here. It’s not just a job. We’ve had people coming who couldn’t read or write—we taught them and now they can read and write perfectly.”
At Croespenmaen in South Wales over half the Remploy workforce was on the picket line this morning—some 20 members of the GMB and Unite unions united in action.
GMB rep Ian Lloyd spoke to Socialist Worker. “This site is one of the factories under review,” he said. “Two parties are interested in a potential takeover, but the union hasn’t been informed who they are.”
The nearby Abertillery site is earmarked for closure. Staff their have been offered worse redundancy terms than on previous occasions, said Unite member Graham Morris.
There was a lot of anger on the picket line towards Tory work and pensions minister Maria Miller. Workers wore T-shirts branding her the “Remploy killer”.
Unison members from Tower Hamlets, east London, visited the Remploy North London picket line in Haringey on Thursday morning to hand over a collection and show our solidarity.
Around half the 26 Remploy workers were picketing. Many supporters had come to back this crucial jobs fight. After a discussion in sign language two deaf workers were persuaded to come out and join the strike.
There was a confident mood among the 30 or so pickets outside Sheffield’s Remploy factory in the Brightside area of the city.
The strike was mostly solid—although unfortunately it looked as though some workers on “workfare” had been bullied by management into going in. Others signed in then walked out again.
Sheffield Remploy strikers will be speaking at Sheffield trades council meeting on Tuesday next week. The plan is to launch a support group followed by a public solidarity meeting.