19 July 2012
The Remploy workers’ strike today (Thursday 19 July) in protest at being thrown on to the dole queue is solid, with massive public support, Unite, the largest union in the country, has said.
Unite’s national officer for the not-for-profit sector Sally Kosky said today: “We have received reports from across the country that the strike is solid and is receiving massive support from the public, as well as from disability groups and other trade unions.
“This sends the strongest possible message to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith that the government needs to have a drastic re-think on its policy of closing down and selling off the Remploy factories.
“The first wave of factory closures by the end of the year will see about 1,700 disabled workers thrown on to the dole queue, at a time when those out of work for more than two years is at its worst since 1997.”
Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary, said: “The government’s actions smack of a callousness that makes a sham of its ‘We are all in this together’ mantra. The public is very angry at the government’s behaviour.”
Workers at the vast majority of the 54 factories took to the picket lines in a bid to save their jobs with a 24-hour strike. Remploy workers will strike again next Thursday (26 July) for 24-hours.
They have been greatly encouraged by more than 7,500 individual messages of support. Each factory has received a giant card with a selection of messages.
Last week the government announced that the 27 factories will close by the end of the year throwing about 1,700 disabled workers out-of-work. A further nine factories face an uncertain future. The remaining 18 sites are due to close or be sold-off next year.
Unite has called on the Westminster government to follow the example of the Welsh government which has pledged £2.4 million for employers who give jobs to Remploy workers when the factories in Wales close.
The workers voted to strike because they believe the proposed closure negotiations were ‘a sham’; in protest at the intention to make disabled people compulsorily redundant for the first time at Remploy; and that the redundancy pay will be less than previous voluntary redundancies.
Unite and the GMB unions have been campaigning to keep the Remploy factories open as viable businesses and cite the recent upbeat assessment of Remploy’s future prospects from Alan Hill, Managing Director, Remploy Enterprise Businesses who wrote that: “We have grown our sales by 12.2 per cent, a fantastic achievement.”
For further information please contact Unite communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
The full list of factories facing closure are: Aberdare, Abertillery, Acton, Ashington, Barking, Birkenhead, Bolton, Cleator Moor, Gateshead, Lanarkshire, Leeds, Leicester, London (Haringay), Manchester, Merthyr Tydfill, Newcastle, Oldham, Penzance, Pontefract, Preston, Southampton, Spennymoor, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea, Wigan, Worksop and Wrexham.
Remploy was established in 1945 as part of the new welfare state, providing employment for injured soldiers and today is still a workplace for men and women returning from wars around the world.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.