Disable the government – not Remploy!
By Sally Turner
REMPLOY, a government-owned company that provides disabled people with employment, is closing 36 of its 54 factories and sacking at least 1,700 workers. Everyone should oppose this act, which will destroy workers’ dignity and independence, as well as halting socially useful production.
Workers Power and Revolution members went to meet the workers at a Remploy factory in Leeds under threat and talk to them about the closure. The atmosphere outside was welcoming, and the workers were happy for the support.
At first many workers thought the game was over, but many seemed buoyed up when we suggested they occupy the factory and hold the machinery to ransom.
The unions representing the workers – Unite and GMB – have so far not come up with a fighting plan, with officials spreading further gloom when they told the BBC that there is “no way disabled people will be able to find work in the current climate.” By refusing to call strike action, the officials are lying down in front of these closures. No wonder the workers we spoke to felt let down.
Hundreds of workers protested in London, Sheffield, Cardiff and Edinburgh at the end of April against the attempts to throw them onto the dole. We attended the demonstration in Sheffield, where there was an atmosphere of defiance. Four hundred marched, chanting to the sound of car horns from supporters.
One placard read, “Disable the government, not Remploy”. We packed into Sheffield Town Hall for a rally with GMB officials, Labour politicians and a Unite organiser.
Unfortunately none of the speakers were disabled or Remploy workers, although they did make fiery speeches about fighting back, resonating with a clear mood in favour of resistance.
We will continue to fight alongside the Remploy workers, and show that they don’t have to be another unemployment statistic, in particular arguing for pressure on the unions to call strike action and occupations.