Remploy workers have vowed to fight the government’s plan to close 28 out of 83 factories in the publicly-subsidised network employing disabled workers. A few weeks ago government minister Peter Hain was promising sincerely to look seriously at the trade unions’ plan to improve the running of the factories in order to stay within their £111 million subsidy.
But at the end of November Hain took out his axe and brought it down on a third of Remploy’s factories and the jobs of 2,000 workers.
The government say the workers should find jobs in mainstream employment. They dress this up in anti-discrimination rhetoric: disabled workers should not be ghettoised. Shouldn’t the government have made an assessment about whether or not the 2,000 unluckly workers will be able to get jobs, and whether those jobs will be as satisfying, well paid etc as those they have at Remploy? The choice of factories closed is said by the unions to have been entirely arbitrary.
The workers are been told they are not being realistic; Remploy has to make a profit. Perhaps the government was particularly horrified by the workers’ proposal to get work from the public sector! That would be too easy and too “socialistic”.
The government clearly resents paying the piddling amount of £111 million annually to keep 6,000 people in work — even if they are people who will find it very difficult to find jobs in a labour market which actively discriminates against disabled people. We don’t do subsidy, says the government. Except when it comes to mismanaged banks when they’re prepared to splash out billions in loans, that is.
Originally the government planned to close 42 factories. No doubt when the dust settles on these closures they will come back for more. The scrapping of Remploy is a scandalous, short-sighted, mean-spirited piece of butchery. We should help the Remploy workers fight back.