Disabled workers rally to save jobs
'Vulnerable' facing redundancy join May Day protests against factory cuts
Efforts to save the Remploy factory in Barking and Dagenham have been stepped up in a bid to save dozens of disabled people being made redundant in two months’ time. Last week’s May Day rally drew protestors including many Remploy staff who took to the streets in central London to oppose public spending cuts. Barking Remploy employs 48 people at its electronics factory in Long Reach Road. The scheme has been providing work to disabled people for more than 40 years but there are now plans to shut 36 out of 54 state-subsidised factories across the UK, including the Barking site.
Today, Remploy employees will be rallying at 10 Downing Street against the closure plans. Meanwhile, Jon Cruddas MP met Remploy shop stewards and trade union consorts Mark Holloway (GMB) and Julie Haynes (Unison), as well as Kath Collins, a mother of a Barking employee, last week to discuss their next move. Mrs Haynes asked the MP to fight for an extension of the current 90-day consultation period in Parliament so that unions could try to find a solution for the Barking factory’s employees, who may end up without a job. She said: “It’s going to be hard enough for able-bodied people to get jobs.” Mr Holloway warned: “We have got two months. Once Remploy goes, they’re never going to reverse that decision.” Mrs Collins, whose 33- year-old son Tony has a learning disability, said: “My son is absolutely horrified that he might be getting money from the government.”
Mr Cruddas added: “The government is talking about the Big Society but on the other hand they’re closing down factories. “This is about community. Remploy is central to people’s lives. If you’re cutting that away then you’re cutting away more than just a ninety-five jobs.
“People feel very vulnerable and angry about this. I think it’s struck a chord with many people. We need to keep fighting.” A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have been absolutely clear that the £320million budget for specialist disability employment services has been protected. But by spending the money more effectively, we can support thousands more disabled people in work. “That is why we have accepted the recommendation from the Sayce Review, to focus support on individuals through services like Access to Work, rather than institutions like Remploy, so more disabled people can work in mainstream employment rather than segregated factories