Remploy workers strike over factory closure plans

NDET 19-7-12 TW 1 Remploy strike pictured front Kevin Shand
NDET 19-7-12 TW 1 Remploy strike pictured front Kevin Shand

DISABLED Chesterfield factory workers are determined to try and stop Government plans to shut down their workplace after they took part in the first of two strikes.

The Government has opted to cut back funding and subsequently close 36 specialised Remploy factories for disabled workers including the Chesterfield site, on Sheffield Road, at Whittington Moor.

But defiant workers joined nationwide Remploy strikers during a demonstration outside the Chesterfield factory on Thursday, July 19, and outlined their fear that they could be left jobless with a huge struggle to find work in mainstream employment.

Worker Kevin Shand, 49, of Wingerworth, said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. The Government’s spent billions on the Olympics for the summer while they have decided to take away our livelihoods.

“There will be more industrial action planned because we want to work and don’t want to be dumped on the scrapheap because we will all be left struggling to find work.”

Colleague Pauline Hurt said she was concerned Remploy workers would find it very difficult to get new jobs because able-bodied, jobless people were struggling during the recession.

Others told how the factory has adapted really well to meet their needs so they can work with a sense of independence and pride.

Worker Darryl Pass, 54, said: “I’ve worked with Remploy for 38 years and I will have to be very lucky to find a job elsewhere so we’re going to try and do everything we can to save our jobs.”

Remploy’s GMB and Unite union members chose to go on strike after the Government announced the proposed closures as part of wider plans to reduce its funding for the factories and re-focus its efforts on getting disabled workers into mainstream employment.

Colin Hampton, of Chesterfield’s Unemployed Workers Centre said: “It’s outrageous that at a time when there is mass unemployment we’re seeing lots of people with disabilities or health problems unable to get work because they are left having to compete with able-bodied people.”

Chesterfield Labour MP Toby Perkins who is opposed to the closures has revealed the Chesterfield factory is one of nine Remploy sites which could still be sold and taken over by new owners.

Regional Trades Union Congress representative Rob Johnston said: “The Government decision to close Remploy down is the wrong choice at the wrong time when we already have high unemployment and a struggling economy.”

Chesterfield’s Remploy footwear factory has already suffered some voluntary redundancies and now has about 60 staff. The Government Department of Work and Pensions said the budget for disability employment will still be protected and feels this can be better spent more by supporting thousands into mainstream work. Remploy union members are planning further strike action on July 26.