bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours - Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 07.05.04 – TRADE UNION CONDEMNS REMPLOY’S MANAGEMENT

PRESENTER: Liz Barclay

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

BARCLAY
Remploy, the biggest employer of disabled people in the UK, has still not fulfilled its ambition to employ 6,000 disabled people in its factories, a target that it set three years ago. Remploy is a non-profit making organisation, which was set up by the Government after World War II. It gets an annual grant from the Government and the rest of its running costs come from its manufacturing. Its 80 factories and workshops make wheelchairs, textiles and car parts, amongst other things, with a turnover of around £170 million a year. On top of that the organisation has placed another 4,500 disabled people in jobs with other employers like Marks and Spencer's.

Remploy has many critics, as well as that unfulfilled employment quota only a fifth of its management positions are filled by disabled people. Last year there was a long-running pay dispute and in October a national conference of Remploy union members passed a motion of no confidence in the management. Les Woodward is trade union convenor for Remploy's workforce. Les Woodward when it comes to the workforce what is your concern?

WOODWARD
Well our main concern, to be perfectly honest with you, is this commitment signed by Tony Withey, the then chief executive of Remploy, that there would be a minimum of 6,000 disabled people, factory based, throughout the UK in Remploy. Now the company have never ever honoured that agreement. To date we are down to have 5,164 and the company are actually budgeting for next year down to 5,064, which is another loss of a hundred people.

BARCLAY
How feasible do you think it is for Remploy to meet that 6,000 figure?

WOODWARD
Well the less - the less and less we have in the factories the less and less feasible it becomes. It's now becoming, to be honest with you, a critical position. The company have - and I say it again - the company have shown very, very little evidence to show that they were actually serious in the beginning about maintaining 6,000.

BARCLAY
But is the work there for those people?

WOODWARD
Well there is work there. There's an initiative that was set up by the trade unions called ethical threads which basically produces garments, ethically made garments, for the pop industry and for the trade union movement. Now Remploy's one of the licence holders for the ethical threads logo and label but there's been very little evidence to show that the company have ever been serious about producing for ethical threads.

BARCLAY
I'm going to put that to the company in a minute but you're also calling for more disabled people in management positions.

WOODWARD
Well yes, I mean the one thing that I take issue with in your opening statement was that a fifth of management positions are disabled - held by disabled people. Our figures that the company have given us show that that is not quite accurate, I've got the figures in front of me here which show that very - there are no disabled people in most of the groups of Remploy over grade 8 in the management system - grade 8 is not senior management.

BARCLAY
Well let me put those criticisms, Les, to Remploy's chief executive, Bob Warner. Bob, obviously Les and the GNB, the union, are concerned about this - that only a small proportion, first of all, of the management is disabled and basically no one above grade 8 in senior management.

WARNER
The no one above grade 8 is not true. About 25% of our management, in the broadest sense, are disabled people. But it's not enough and I was talking to Les and the rest of the trade unions about this on Tuesday and we said it's not enough and we went through for two hours the programmes that we're putting in to train and develop people and to recruit disabled people so that they can get more into the management grades. I'm not satisfied with it and we're doing something about it. And I think - we took Les through it, as I said, and I think they were content that we were doing the right things here. But we've got some way to go, I'm not hiding that.

BARCLAY
What about this commitment then to employ 6,000 disabled people in your factories? Les says that there are now 5,164 and there will be even fewer next year.

WARNER
Well we're aiming to employ 6,000 people in our businesses. I mean I think what everybody has to understand, including Les, is that the economy has changed so dramatically over the last four years. Our factories are manufacturing businesses and we all know what's happened to UK manufacturing in the last four years. We've worked hard and we've been hit a lot less than UK manufacturing but we have lost 600 jobs in the factories. But we've grown 300 jobs in our service businesses and over that same time we've found 4,000 jobs for people with other employers. So we've had to change to reflect what's been going on in the economy, we're creating far more jobs for disabled people now than we ever did, it's just that they're not in our factories, they're in open employment with other employers. And I have to say that's what disabled people tell us they want - they want choice, they don't just want to be directed to Remploy factories.

BARCLAY
Les Woodward, are you reassured here that Remploy is doing its best to address the issues that concern you but also the issues that concern the workforce?

WOODWARD
No I'm sorry Bob is totally wrong when he said we were content with what he had to say. I mean part of the problem is that Remploy is actually outsourcing products from overseas, that actually wheelchairs are being made in China that are being sold with Remploy's name on them, that is not just importing wheelchairs it's exporting our jobs. And that's only one of the outsourcing problems we've got in Remploy. So I don't believe there's enough going on to maintain factory employment.

BARCLAY
Bob Warner, can you get back round the table?

WARNER
We are round the table regularly with them but we can't buck the trend of UK manufacturing economy. We're working very, very hard on it.

BARCLAY
Bob Warner, chief executive of Remploy and Less Woodward, the trade union convenor for the workforce, thank you both.


Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy