Ouch Q&A #9: Remploy
1st June 2007
Q: It's a blow, yes. But come on - how many basket weavers does Britain really need?
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?
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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