Britain’s largest union, Unite accused the government of showing a ‘callous disregard’ for disabled workers as it confirmed today (Tuesday, 10 July) that it was axing 27 Remploy factories with a further nine still threatened with closure by the end of the year.
The union accused Iain Duncan Smith of living up to his own description of the ‘quiet man’ as junior work and pensions minister, Maria Miller, announced to MPs that approximately 1,700 vulnerable and disabled workers could be consigned to the dole queue.
The decision comes despite unions recently being told by Remploy management that consultation over the company’s future would continue.
Today’s move by the Tory-led government, when all eyes are on Lords reform, will further inflame tensions ahead of two one-day strikes by Remploy workers on Thursday 19 July and Thursday 26 July. A continuous overtime ban is set to start on Thursday this week on 12 July.
Unite and the GMB have been campaigning to keep the Remploy factories open as viable businesses, citing the recent upbeat assessment of Remploy’s future prospects from Alan Hill, managing director, Remploy Enterprise Businesses who wrote that: “We have grown our sales by 12.2 per cent, a fantastic achievement.”
Commenting, Unite national officer, Sally Kosky said: “Today’s announcement has come totally out of the blue with the government and Iain Duncan Smith showing a callous disregard for vulnerable disabled workers. He’s lived up to his own description of being the ‘quiet man’, by getting a junior minister to try and bury bad news ahead of the Lords reform debate.
“Our members are desperate to work in an environment that takes account of their disability, where they can make a valued contribution to society and pay their way. They do not want to be thrown on the scrap heap and relying on handouts.”
Phil Davies, GMB national secretary, added: “Remploy workers will feel deeply let down by this decision. It makes no economic sense and consigns vulnerable workers to the dole queue at a time of recession, when jobs are hard to find.”
For further information contact Alex Flynn, Unite head of media and campaigns, on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665 869.
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.