Disabled workers rattle bosses
REMPLOY bosses have retreated from plans to close nine factories for disabled workers across Britain. The U-turn comes after thousands of Remploy workers threatened to go on strike. The workers, who are mainly in the TGWU and GMB unions, have organised protests, petitions and dem onstrations to force Remploy to back down. Remploy had concocted the closure plan with New Labour minister for the disabled Margaret Hodge.
The government gives a grant of �94 million to the company, which employs disabled workers. New Labour was demanding Remploy "modernises"-by sacking some 1,000 workers. But the workers' protests and strike threat have forced a retreat. Factories at Bradford, Barnsley, Gateshead, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Neath will stay open. Two factories in south Wales (Ystragynlais and Brynamman) and two in Stoke (Trentham and Stoke on Trent) may still be merged.
Remploy workers are pleased that their determination to fight the closures has forced their bosses to back down. But many don't trust Remploy bosses to keep their word. Rob Glover, a worker at the Barnsley factory, said, "When we heard the news we were 100 percent happy.
"It has been a big shock for Remploy because they expected us all to lie down and take the closures. But we got onto it straightaway. We took it to the streets, radio and TV. We are 90 percent sure our factory will stay open, but it's that 10 percent I'm worried about. We were told that the new corporate strategy, 'Plan 21', has to go to the shareholders. When we said, 'Who's that?' it slipped out that they meant the government." The same concerns could be heard from Mark Durnell, a Remploy worker in Neath. Mark said, "It's a mixture of happy for the moment, but until it's all confirmed we're a bit wary." Remploy workers have to continue to fight to ensure their bosses and New Labour put the interests of disabled workers before company profits.