ADAM JONES (Office and shopfloor worker)
‘We are not thinking just about our jobs – it’s about the next generation of disabled people too’
Adam Jones, 35, has been at the factory since he was 18. He has arthritis, psoriasis, a back problem and a heart murmur, and has to go to hospital often.
Job title: Works in the factory office and on the shop floor.
Prepared to strike: Yes.
Jones came into the factory on a youth training scheme with no qualifications. He says that discrimination is still rife in many mainstream workplaces, and that this makes Remploy’s plans unrealistic. At one stage he left the factory – through the Remploy interwork scheme that helps disabled people into mainstream employment – to work with CCTV cameras for a local police force. But after less than a year it let him go and he returned to Remploy.
“Things have improved under the Disability Discrimination Acts, but most companies don’t give two hoots about the disabled,” he says.
As well as being discriminatory, many workplaces are not accessible. As a case in point, the nearby Remploy group office for its textiles division, of which the cutting unit is a part, does not have a lift to the second floor, he says.
He has also heard of people being teased by other non-disabled workers about their disabilities. “We have a laugh and a joke about each others’ disabilities, but we know what they are. To the average man on the street, disabled people are forgotten about.”
The cutting unit workers, as well as those at other factories, were told about the closure by DVD – a move that Jones brands as “disgusting”. A manager from outside the factory, who didn’t know any of the staff, was also sent in to answer questions. The factory has four deaf members of staff and, although there was signing on the DVD, there was no interpreter to interpret the manager’s responses to questions, says Jones.
The distress of the workers at this site was replicated elsewhere. The unit received distraught phone calls from factories in Aintree, Wigan and St Helens, which are all being closed. “People were in tears at the factories,” says Jones.
At 35, Jones still has many working years ahead of him and, alongside fears for himself and his colleagues, he is also concerned for the younger disabled people reaching working age.
“We are not thinking about just our jobs it’s the next generation of disabled people too. If they closed this factory, there will be nothing for them. They have shut down the [sheltered] workshops, and not many of those people have jobs. If they haven’t, what chance have we?”
Remploy says all its sites were reviewed and “appropriate adjustments made where necessary to facilitate disabled employees”. The organisation adds that the DVD was one of a range of materials used to explain its announcement to people.
On the lack of signers being present to communicate the manager’s comments to the deaf workers, it says that all employees can ask specific questions on helplines and feedback forms. It adds that, with short notice, it can be difficult to obtain the services of a signer, but in such circumstances access to signers will be made available as soon as possible.