Home > Fact > Ouch Q&A #9: Remploy

Ouch Q&A #9: Remploy

by Rob Crossan

1st June 2007

Q: So what's this I hear about a lot of disabled people losing their jobs all over the country?
A: Yes, as if there weren't enough unemployed disabled people as it is, there's now the prospect of there being even more as Remploy has announced proposals to close more than half of its factories around the United Kingdom.

Q: It's a blow, yes. But come on - how many basket weavers does Britain really need?

A Remploy worker employed in a supermarket
A: You idiot! Remploy factories manufacture everything from furniture to car parts to chemical protection suits. Besides, a lot of non-disabled people work for Remploy as well. You may have heard the term 'integration' before ...

Q: Yes, that word does ring a bell. Didn't Stevie Wonder sing about it?

A: Possibly, but what really matters is that 32 of Remploy's 83 factories are set to close, with a further 11 merging with other sites, as the company claims that if it doesn't make the cuts then it will go over budget. Remploy has over 5,000 workers on its books, and it also provides training and advice for other disabled people looking for employment in every sector of the job market.

Q: But surely Remploy won't really be making so many disabled people unemployed at the stroke of a pen, will it?

A: Not according to its press releases, no. They say that this move is part of major far-reaching plans to quadruple the number of people it helps intowork over the next five years, by transferring resources from those loss-making factories to supporting more than 20,000 workers in mainstream employment. But it's sure to be a mass upheaval for those currently working there.

Q: What kind of impairments do Remploy workers have?

A: The firm was originally set up after the Second World War to provide jobs for injured servicemen, but today 35% of their workers have learning rather than physical disabilities.

Q: So has the charity world come out sticks and chairs blazing at the news of these closures?
A Remploy worker employed in a retail store
A: Actually, no. Mencap, and MIND are among the groups who have gone on record to say that disabled workers should now be working in more inclusive environments and so support the closures. Remploy themselves point out that there are to be no compulsory redundancies. They plan instead to assist the 2,270 disabled workers and 280 non-disabled workers affected by the factory closures in obtaining another job successfully in mainstream employment.

Q: But won't that be pretty difficult?

A: Wait and see. Press officer Simon Hardy told Ouch that the average age of disabled Remploy workers is 47. Finding new jobs for people this age is clearly not going to be easy.

Q: So is anyone going to fight these closures?

A: Oh yes. Unions have said that the charities' support for the factory closures is "despicable". Phil Davies of the GMB union has already raised the prospect of a national ballot to decide possible industrial action. He claims that the union have costed alternative business plans which would keep all 83 factories open.
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