Union targets disability charities supporting Remploy closures

The GMB union is threatening to stage demonstrations outside the headquarters of six disability charities behind a joint letter to the national press at the weekend in support of Government plans to close up to 30 Remploy factories employing 5,000 disabled workers.

The chief executives of Leonard Cheshire, Radar, Mencap, Mind, RNID and Scope wrote to The Guardian on Saturday welcoming Remploy’s plans to focus its resources on supporting disabled people into mainstream employment.

The letter said that while Remploy factories had been “of real benefit” in the past, disabled people were more likely to be happy working in “the inclusive environment that the rest of us take for granted”.

GMB national secretary Phil Davies said Remploy’s workers had been “stabbed in the back” by the letter, and condemned “the grotesque scene of the leaders of six disability organisations scuttling around media studios calling for the handing out of redundancy notices to disabled workers”.

The union is considering staging demonstrations outside the charities and may ballot members over strike action.

Davies denied the continued existence of the factories would prevent disabled workers from finding mainstream employment. “This is both dishonest and misleading,” he said. “The trade unions are in favour of both options.”

Les Woodward, national convenor of the Remploy Trade Union Consortium, said the six charities were supported by Remploy and formed a “cartel” of employment agencies for disabled people. “All of them have a vested interest in seeing Remploy factories close and our members put on the scrapheap or catapulted into jobs that are not suitable or sustainable,” he said.

The unions expect a meeting with Remploy management today to reveal which of the company’s 83 factories are to close. Davies said it was “difficult to see” how a national strike could be avoided.

Meanwhile, Remploy has announced plans to quadruple the number of people it helps into work over the next five years. It has proposed closing 32 factories and merging a further 11, and plans to use the resources its frees up  to support 20,000 disabled people into jobs in mainstream employment every year.


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