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Remploy strike: a great first step in the fight for jobs

Leaflet given out at Leeds Remploy factory picket line on 19 July 2012

Remploy strike leaflet 19 July 2012 (as pdf)

Remploy workers voted strongly for a strike against factory closures and up to 2800 compulsory redundancies, with 79.5% of GMB members and 59.7% of Unite members in favour. That’s a clear signal to the Tories that Remploy workers won’t take these attacks lying down. The two 24-hour strikes on 19 and 26 July are a great first step in the fight to make the government back down. The goal should be to keep every factory open, save every job, and force the Tories to restore the funding necessary to maintain the very important work that the Remploy factories do.

Rich Tory Hypocrites

The government says it can’t afford to subsidise Remploy’s £68 million annual losses, but this is a drop in the bucket of state spending.

George Osborne admitted that his tax cut for the richest people in Britain, put forward days after the Remploy closure announcement in the 2012 budget, would “only” lose £100 million in revenue! The government of the millionaires, for the millionaires can afford cutting taxes for its chums, but not Remploy workers shame on these hypocrites.

Remploy workers have to strike.  There’s not any jobs out there for anyone, disabled or otherwise!  After Remploy factories were closed in 2008, over ninety percent of the ex-workers have yet to find a job. The Tory promises of 18 months of support are no guarantee of a job whatsoever, they’re just hoping to avoid a strike and trying to confuse the public by talking about ending the segregation of disabled workers, or worse, that Remploy workers do nothing but drink cups of tea all day, in the disgusting words of Ian Duncan Smith. As one angry Remploy member retorted:

“To sell our factories off is not changing us being in ghettos we are still going to be in the same ghettos but will not have the support that we have now.”

Build a solidarity movement

The Tories are more unpopular than ever, and as the student revolt and mass public sector pension strike showed, there is huge anger that can be turned into action. Remploy workers taking a stand will not only find themselves overwhelmed by public support and union solidarity, they will find themselves heading a revived anti-cuts revolt. Disabled maybe, but enablers of the anticuts struggle definitely!

That’s why Remploy workers, activists and reps should insist the Unite and GMB leaders build an active solidarity movement around the strike, not fight it as a sectional issue, like the closures are the concern of Remploy workers only.

Remploy cuts: yet another Tory attack on the welfare state

Since 1946 Remploy has been a key component of the welfare state, all of which – free state education, the NHS, benefits, union rights – is coming under attack by a Tory government determined to destroy it. Capitalism is in a deep crisis and the only way for it to go forward in the 21st century is to cut back our rights, our welfare, our jobs, our pensions and our wages to boost profits. The bill for the trillion pound bank bailout is to be paid for by slashing £100 billion in state spending, and privatising what is left so that big business has new sources of profit.

Remploy is a key plank of the welfare state, playing a social role both in ensuring disabled workers a place in the workforce and making useful things society needs, something that is valuable for everyone.

To get the ball rolling local factories could set up solidarity committees, inviting local union branches, anti-cuts and anti-privatisation groups, student groups together and build a big local movement in support. Let’s set one up in Leeds, and make sure that everyone knows about the strike, what it’s about, and gets behind it. Unite and the GMB should organise a round of local demos building to a national trade union demo in solidarity with Remploy workers and march on Downing Street.

What Next?

If the Tories haven’t budged after the 19th – and they won’t, they are terrified of looking weak – then Remploy workers will no doubt discuss where next. Given that the first closures could come as early as August, rapidly escalating the strike – two days in row, three, four up to all out if necessary – is the only way to test how determined the government to attack Remploy. If the Tories try to stick it out and start closing factories as they are threatening to do in August, workers should take note of what the Visteon and Vestas workers did in 2010 against closures, and occupy their factories – it would be all over the news and gain massive public sympathy.  The more sustained and militant the Remploy strike is, the more visible it becomes, which will reap huge benefits in terms of public support, donations, and active solidarity.  The danger is that sticking to one day strikes won’t defeat the government, and not ensure public attention, which could lead to isolation after the first headlines pass.

Rank and File Control

GMB and Unite leaders have talked tough over Remploy closures but in 2008 the same leaders didn’t take the action necessary to save factories and jobs.

They might suspend action for fake talks, accept unnecessary and damaging concessions, or simply string the action out in a series of one-day strikes that don’t really make the Tories sweat – look at the recent public sector pension strike, which has been sold out by the same Unite and GMB leaders!

Remploy workers are the ones who will lose their jobs, it’s they who should control the strike and negotiations. To do that, rank and file members, activists and reps can get organised and ensure that the necessary strike action and solidarity work happens, keep the pressure on the union leaders to deliver or go forward without them if necessary. Remploy workers can approach the Sparks Rank and file committee and Unite Grassroots Left to take part in building a rank and file movement in the GMB and UNITE to ensure the maximum solidarity from below.

Remploy workers are in a strong position to win solidarity. Most people will be disgusted by the Tory bullying and attacks and want to do what they can to help.

Taking strike action is a great step in the right direction – it is the action necessary to win, and it raises the public profile of the workers. Let’s join all trade unionists together in building the maximum solidarity with the Remploy workers, with the aim of a total defeat for the Tory plans.

For a report of the Leeds strike click here

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