Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/504/3222
The Socialist 4 October 2007 |
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Remploy workers win partial victory
Remploy workers won a very important partial victory from the government at Labour Party conference. Secretary of state for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, announced a moratorium on Remploy factory closures. In return, the unions agreed to withdraw their motion to conference.
Socialist Party Wales
The GMB motion called for £150 million of public procurement contracts to go to Remploy factories, an end to the factory closures and the expansion of the Remploy factory workforce. It called for every public sector contracting body to give at least one contract to Remploy and for the new Remploy job centre (Interwork) functions to be returned to Job Centre Plus.
Hain's concessions were significant, if vague. He accepted the importance of European legislation that allows factories employing at least 50% disabled people to secure public procurement contracts without tendering for them. He announced a moratorium on closures "to help find a solution" to the dispute.
He also announced that no factory closures would take place without the agreement of ministers. He announced £555 million of subsidies, although this is not new money and it is over five years. But union officials and shop stewards can now argue this should be spent on more jobs in the factories – instead of on building up the Remploy Interwork scheme. He also announced that there will be no compulsory redundancies.
However, Hain also said that: "Remploy must change to have a financially sustainable future". If the pressure is not kept up, the factories will be picked off one by one. There has already been a significant run-down of employment within the factories over the last several years, in response to a directive to make the factories 'unviable'.
Hain's announcement may have been hastened by the possibility of an autumn election. But, it is the result of a tremendous campaign by union shop stewards and members within the factories – with important work from union officials, as well. The government thought that disabled workers would be a soft target.
Remploy workers and shop stewards demonstrating outside Labour Party conference made their determination clear.
Chris Williams, GMB shop steward from Bridgend spoke for many when he said: "This is mainstream employment. If you didn't have 'Remploy' over the door, it could be Sony's or Ford's."
Stewart Fitzpatrick added, "They're not just trying to take our jobs. They're trying to take the jobs of the next generation of disabled people that are growing up at the moment".
The task now is to keep the pressure up and build Remploy shop stewards networks – both regionally and nationally, to defend every Remploy factory and every Remploy job.
- Stop the sabotage and rundown of Remploy factories by the current management.
- Sack the Remploy board.
- For the election of a new board with 1/3 elected by the Remploy workforce, 1/3 nominated by the Remploy trade unions, 1/3 by the government.