Support Remploy Workers

21th February 2011

Disabled factory workers at Remploy, the government funded manufacturing company, are considering taking strike action to defend their jobs after management announced they would be offering voluntary redundancy (VR) packages to all its workers across the UK. To the disgust of the trade unions, Remploy management insist that VR is a fair way of improving efficiency in the current economic climate!

A delegation of GMB Remploy workers from its Swansea plant addressed Swansea Trades Council to explain the concerns of the workforce and to get support and solidarity from the wider trade union movement in retaining these vital jobs for disabled workers.

Alec Thraves, Swansea Trades Council and Swansea Socialist Party reports:

Under the last Labour Government in 2008, 29 Remploy factories were disgracefully closed with the loss of around 2500 jobs. This had a devastating affect on those disabled workers, the vast majority of whom remain unemployed and on benefits with no prospects of finding work.

The ConDem Government have now picked up the baton from Labour and are threatening even more job losses and ultimately more factory closures.

Neil Pearce, alongside other GMB union members, explained to our Trades Council the background to this dispute:

"On the face of it the offer of VR doesn't appear to be a problem but in reality the Company are trying to railroad the unions and the worry from the shop floor is that with a run down of the workforce, factories would become so diluted that one by one they would become non-viable concerns -- in other words, factory closures by the back door.

"The tactics of the company has been deplorable! There is supposed to be a 90 day consultation with the consortium of Remploy trade unions before anything is implemented but on Day 1 of the consultation the VR proposals were leaked to the Telegraph just hours before the unions were to meet with management.

"Then on Day 2 of the consultation just half an hour before the unions next meeting all the factory managers across Remploy were instructed to brief their workforce on the exact details of the VR package! This goes completely against our National Agreement, the Remploy Accord, which clearly states that 'Before VR is implemented the company must enter into negotiations with the consortium unions to mitigate job losses'. VR should be a last resort not the first!

"We are angry that while we are losing jobs, senior managers at Remploy seem to have mushroomed. For a company that is apparently struggling to survive how is it they can afford to give 288 senior managers 1.4 million pound bonus payments!

"Remember, the government funds Remploy to the tune of 111 million pound a year and even Tory Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith had to tell the Remploy Board to show restraint with this bonus windfall.

"Workers at the Swansea plant and across the UK genuinely believe that the moves to implement VR, without proper consultation, are a further attempt to deliberately run down Remploy and we will fight to keep our jobs".

As well as circulating its affiliates to gather support for the Remploy workers, Swansea Trade Council also passed a motion for the Trades Councils' Annual Conference which called on all Trades Councils to defend the jobs, terms and conditions of any Remploy factory in their area and to ensure there is put in place a cogent plan for the future of their factory network.
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