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Leeds Remploy strike a success

A fantastic strike took place at the Remploy factory in Leeds on Thursday, reports Paul Silson.

Every single unionised worker was on the picket line. The only exceptions were those off on sick and one worker who is not in a union – although he did show solidarity with those out, so even here there is something to work on.

It was an extremely positive picket line. Office staff who are not unionised were conveniently absent or coincidentally found “courses” to go on. Even senior management who are trying to impose the shut down stayed away.

If the Con/Dem government thought they could target some of the most vulnerable workers and throw them on the dole they are mistaken. The strikers at Leeds are adamant that they will not “just roll over”. The Remploy strikers realise it is not just their fight, but one for all workers who are either threatened with the dole or are already out of work.

What is key to the workers is that they know the full impact of being laid off – they accept that they are unlikely to find work elsewhere. Also by working at Remploy it gives carers a valuable break. Indeed some carers may have to give up their own jobs if the strikers are not victorious to fill the gap that Remploy currently fills.

One picket commented that the Remploy staff are “like a second family”. Many staff have given decades of service to the company. To close any Remploy factory would be a disaster for all those involved – it will devastate lives.

There is a lot of local support for the strike – the unions and local businesses have provided raffle prizes such as chocolates and whisky to keep up morale!

Some pickets, however, knew it would take more than this to win the strike. They were talking about escalating the action and hoping to hold a rally in Leeds this coming week. Workers Power members will do all we can to help militants develop the tactics, the strategy and most importantly the new rank and file leadership to win their dispute.

On a more pessimistic note the mood at the picket line at Pontefract was not so good. Up to half the staff have already, or are likely to accept the paltry and insulting redundancy offer. Maybe strikers from Leeds should go over and show what total solidarity can do. The mood in Leeds was not one of defeat – they realise this is a fight they can win.

Remploy pickets speak out

Workers Power spoke to a number of the Remploy strike on the Leeds picket line. Here is a transcript of the interviews. Real names have been left out for obvious reasons.

Workers Power Can you tell me a bit about why you’re on strike?

Remploy strikers We’re on strike because we’re not happy with what they’re doing to us; the government are trying to get rid of our jobs. We need to fight, because at the end of the day it’s all we’ve got left.

Why do you think the government are trying to close down 57 factories?

I think it’s just to save money, and I think they’re going at it the wrong way round. They’re attacking us and our jobs and we’ve got a right to be here just as much as anybody else. We’ve got to fight for our jobs because of everyone else out there who have lost theirs – the families who are struggling to put food on the table for their kids.

What is Remploy and what is it about?

Remploy is about giving disabled people jobs and a chance to work, a chance for people who won’t be offered jobs in mainstream work.

If the closures do go through, what do you think will happen?

I think a lot of people will struggle to find a new job, they’ll be sat at home depressed and because they’re at home their families might have to give up their jobs to care for them.

If the government doesn’t back down after this strike or the one next Thursday do you have an idea of where the fight should go?

We just need to get our question across and try and stop them from walking all over us.

For our leaflet to the strike, click here

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