Staff at disability employer Remploy have started voting on a 3% pay offer for 2008-9, which unions GMB, Unite and Community have recommended that they accept.
The ballot began as the Department for Work and Pensions appointed a new chief executive for the government-subsidised company in the shape of Tim Matthews, who will succeed Bob Warner on 1 October.
The pay offer follows a period of industrial unrest at Remploy, triggered by its decision to close 28 of its 83 factories, which directly employed 5,000 disabled people, as part of a modernisation programme.
The programme is designed to quadruple, from 5,000 to 20,000, the number of disabled people Remploy places in mainstream employment every year by April 2013. Remploy is also aiming to improve sales at the its remaining factories through increasing contracts with public bodies.
Closures bitterly opposed
The factory closures, which took place earlier this year, were bitterly opposed by the unions and led to several strikes.
However, union leaders’ recommendation to members to accept the pay offer signalled a calming of industrial relations at the company.
In a letter to union members, GMB national secretary for manufacturing Paul Kenny said union leaders’ recommendation to accept was “in view of the difficult circumstances” at Remploy and the “need to move forward”.
He added: “A new management structure is being introduced and there is room for optimism. The trade unions will continue to work for the survival of Remploy and by accepting the offer it will be the first step to showing how responsible the Remploy trade union members are.”
The offer also includes a promise to review Remploy’s current grading structure and payments for people leaving the company on ill-health grounds. The ballot closes on 27 August.
New chief executive
Matthews was chief executive of Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Hospital Trust from 1993-2000 and ran the Highways Agency from 2000-3, before moving to the private sector.
Minister for disabled people Anne McGuire said: “The company faces important challenges and it is crucial that Remploy increases its sales and work with local stakeholders, to take advantage of public procurement opportunities. I believe that Tim Matthews has the experience and ability to lead the company’s efforts to achieve this.”
Remploy trade union members site