Unions go on attack after minister backs Remploy axe


Besides the closure of 28 factories, the Remploy plan includes a 25% cut in management numbers, and a targeted 130% increase in income from public sector contracts, to £461m over five years. The company must remain within its public subsidy of £111m a year on current trends it would be spending £171m annually by 2012. However, the unions claim this could be achieved without any factory closures, by reducing overhead costs and limiting spending on Remploy’s employment service to £31m a year, not £34m as proposed.

Trade unions representing disabled staff at Remploy are promising a wave of industrial action and protests after the government backed the company’s modernisation plan, which includes the loss of 28 factories employing 2,000 people.

Remploy trade union convenor Les Woodward said staff at the central cutting unit in Birkenhead staged a walkout last Thursday after work and pensions secretary Peter Hain announced his backing for the plan, but later returned to work.

On Friday, union activists protested at Hain’s constituency office in Neath, south Wales.

Phil Davies, national secretary at GMB, one of three unions represented at Remploy, said a meeting would be held with shop stewards on 13 December to identify factories to ballot for a “rolling” programme of industrial action. But he added: “There will be a lot of guerilla action as well, which won’t even be under the control of the union.”

An industrial action ballot of all Remploy’s 83 factories took place in September but the result has not been announced.

Remploy acknowledged there had been a protest at Birkenhead. A spokesperson said it was keen to work with the unions on implementing its plan.

In parliament last week, Hain reiterated previous pledges that no disabled workers would be made compulsorily redundant and all staff would retain Remploy’s terms and conditions. The company wants to quadruple to 20,000 a year the number of disabled people it helps into mainstream employment by 2012, shifting resources away from its factories, which employ about 5,000 disabled people.

This has earned it the backing of a number of disability charities, including Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, Mind, Scope and RNID.

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Mithran Samuel

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