Disabled workers facing factory closures at Remploy are to strike for a third day on Monday of next week.
Time is running out to stop the attacks, with many of the threatened factories set to close this month. Around 1,700 disabled workers face being thrown out of work.
The picket lines were well supported when the GMB and Unite union members struck on Thursday of last week. Some 40 out of 47 workers joined a loud and angry picket line in Springburn, Glasgow. They cheered and waved at every car that tooted in solidarity with them.
GMB convenor Phil Brennan explained how bosses had bled the firm dry. “In 1995 there were 96 Remploy factories and 280 senior managers,” he said. “Today there are 54 factories and 400 of them. We’ve had enough—now is the time to fight back.”
Simon has worked at the site for 13 years and supports his parents and grandmother. He says he wouldn’t know what to do without Remploy.
Upbeat pickets in the north east of England discussed the class struggle in Greece and the recent strikes by Spanish miners. Pickets turned out in Spennymoor, Gateshead, Ashington and Newcastle.
One worker at Ashington said, “I fractured my spine at Ellington Colliery 24 years ago and was retired due to ill health. Remploy gave me a job and my dignity back—but the government is now taking this away.”
Remploy workers in Preston had been told that their jobs were safe until at least 2013. But now the Tories plan to close their factory on 14 August. Workers travelled from Lancaster, Blackpool and Cumbria to show support for their picket line.
In Birkenhead, Merseyside, workers from Maghull High School brought a collection for strikers. Their factory could close on 14 August. Pickets said Remploy was “like a family”.
Over 30 picketed in Acton, west London. Monica Thomas, a worker at the factory, said, “This picket line is really strong—it’s bigger than the last strike. We have to strike. What else are we going to do if the factories close?”
Workers remember the last round of Remploy closures in 2008. Harish Yadev, another worker, added, “Almost all of those laid off before are still out of work now.”
Trade unionists who joined the picket stressed the importance of the fight. Raj Gill from Ealing trades council said, “The whole trade union movement needs to step up the solidarity campaign.”
The strikes have been solid and won enormous support. Now union leaders should mobilise the full forces of the labour movement to back the Remploy workers.
And a key method of stopping the factories shutting down will be for workers to occupy them and keep them open themselves.
Thanks to everyone who sent photos and reports. A list of picket lines for the Monday 6 August is available on the GMB website