Many disabled people made redundant from factories run by government company Remploy have not received support to get other jobs, unions and Remploy workers claimed this week.
They also said the 53 of the original 83 factories that remained open were struggling to bring in business.
Unions GMB and Unite rejected a report from Labour’s policy commission that said the party was “committed to helping” Remploy’s remaining factories compete for public procurement opportunities.
Heated fringe meeting
Speaking at a heated fringe meeting at this week’s Labour conference, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, dismissed the report as a “whitewash”, saying it did not reflect what had happened since the government agreed the closure of the factories last year.
He claimed that people were “pressurised” into taking redundancy from the factories that closed and many were now unemployed.
This was despite a government agreement that there would be no compulsory redundancies and that the terms and conditions of workers would be protected.
The government proposed the closures with the aim of getting disabled people into mainstream employment, but Kenny and others said this had not happened for everyone.
Kenny blamed the “inefficiency” of the company and said the unions were hearing “tragic stories of people who lost their dignity”.
He said the GMB’s relationship with the government had “foundered” on the issue of Remploy.
Phil Davies, of fellow union Unite, said the £100 million redundancy money given to around 2,500 people was a “waste” and should have been used to modernise the factories instead of closing them.
He claimed some former Remploy workers were providing “free labour” for charity shops and were “treated terribly”, citing the case of a woman who had lost her home and put her mother in a care home after Remploy dismissed her.
“This is not what we expected when the deal [with the government] was done last year,” he told the meeting.
The unions said they would gather evidence on what had happened former Remploy workers and present this to the government.
Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite, said unions would “keep up the pressure” on the government, councils and local agencies to provide work for the remaining Remploy factories.
Last night, work and pensions secretary James Purnell told Community Care the government’s plans for Remploy were “the right thing for disabled people.”