Strike action against the proposed closure of factories run by Remploy, the government-funded company that provides employment to disabled people, is “almost inevitable,” unions have warned.
The GMB called Remploy’s proposals to help the 2,270 affected disabled workers “unrealistic” and said strike action was likely.
Under the proposals announced last week, Remploy would close 32 factories and a further 11 would merge with nearby sites – in total more than half of its 83 factories. The company said that there would be no compulsory redundancies and anyone it was unable to help into mainstream employment would continue to be paid by them and found voluntary work.
Remploy’s other proposals included a programme aiming to help more than 20,000 disabled people a year into mainstream employment within five years.
Disability charities Leonard Cheshire, Radar, Mencap, Mind, Scope and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, have backed Remploy’s plans arguing that it is more fulfilling for disabled people to work in mainstream positions.
But unions argue that many factories are located in areas of high unemployment including Rhondda Cynon Taff in South Wales. “The disability charities are sitting in their nice offices in London not realising that down in the Rhondda once the Remploy factory shuts that’s it,” a GMB spokesperson said.
Jenny Formby, from the T&G section of new super union Unite and chair of the Remploy Trade Union Consortium, said: “The sheer scale of the closures and its impact on disabled workers is shocking. The grotesque spectacle of six organisations, purporting to represent disabled people, supporting these job losses is outrageous. It will not pass unchallenged.”
A spokesperson for the Royal National Institute of the Blind said that while mainstream employment should be disabled peoples’ goal a supported alternative was also needed.
Remploy Trade Union Consortium