The Socialist 25 July 2012
Olympic Britain - We’re priced out
Remploy strike a big success
Save our factories!
On 19 July, workers at Remploy factories across the country came out on strike to defend their workplaces and their jobs. The government are planning to shut all 34 factories and hand the work over to their big business friends. This is not only an attack on disabled workers, but the whole trade union movement. This was clearly recognised on the well-supported picket lines. These are just some of the inspiring reports we have received.
At both the Newcastle and Gateshead Remploy factories all available workers turned up for the picket line. Jim Dobson, factory leading hand and GMB rep, pointed out that of those made redundant by Remploy in 2008 - 80% are still unemployed.
Many of the workers pointed out that while the number of workers has been run down over the years, there has been an increase in the number of senior managers and directors.
Between 60 and 70 Remploy workers and supporters turned up in Stoke. Banners from PCS, CWU, North Staffs TUC and more joined the many Unite flags.
Local New Labour MPs rightly berated the Con-Dem government but the other two local Remploy factories were closed by their own New Labour government.
In Huddersfield, two workers were going into work but came out to join the strike, greeted by cheers.
In Portsmouth, Rosemary, who has worked at Remploy for 35 years said: "This is my life. If this place closes, would we get other work? If it closes it will affect everything, including our pensions."
Workers in Swansea explained that the plant could be profitable. In the alternative strategy developed by the Remploy trade unions, they estimate that the whole organisation could balance the books by 2017/2018, while providing work for 2,000 disabled people.
Close to 40 people crowded outside the Porth plant. There was a good mood in Aberdare and the whole workforce in Merthyr picketed in two shifts. There was staunch support for the strike from the local community.
There was a brilliant mood on the picket lines in Abertillery and at Bridgend, the site of the first Remploy factory in UK.
In Glasgow, Springburn took action when they were informed they were one of nine factories that the Con-Dems were looking to sell to a private company.
Workers held a union meeting and then occupied the canteen for several hours. Phil Brannan, GMB union convener, said: "I've been a union rep at the site for 32 years and we've never taken any unofficial action before." All 25 of the GMB members at the Dundee factory were on strike.
Thirty Remploy workers formed a confident picket line across two entrances of the biggest Remploy factory in London. Unite reps also offered support. Barking GMB shop steward Mark Holloway said: "Remploy provides an opportunity for disabled people to work in an environment that is safe and which understands their special needs, and gives them an opportunity to contribute to the local and national economy. "It is far better than a life on benefits."
The next strike is on 26 July.
In this issue
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Stop NHS cuts & privatisation
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party appeal & news