First industrial action at the specialist disabled workers organisation since it was founded by the post-1945 Labour government

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Dozens of disabled workers have been picketing two Remploy factories – in Glasgow and Chesterfield – in protest at the introduction of what GMB says is a two-tier workforce.

The one-day strike is the first of its kind at Remploy.

Phil Brannan (above, centre) senior shop steward for the GMB/Unite consortium at Remploy told UnionNews: “This is the first time in 65 years of Remploy’s history that there’s been industrial action, which is a sad state of affairs, but it’s purely down to senior management.

“Remploy Healthcare have employed eleven people at the Chesterfield factory and every one of them is on lesser wages and worse terms and conditions than the people employed directly by Remploy. Even worse, not one of them is disabled. When we asked the company why there were no disabled people, their answer was: ‘because no disabled people wanted the job’.

“Considering the unemployment levels in Britain – and the disabled percentage is even higher – to say that you couldn’t get any disabled people is farcical. It beggars belief. The company are telling us nothing.”

GMB believes introducing non-disabled people into Remploy factories on lower wages is either a prelude to privatisation or a sign that the company will now attempt to cut the wages and conditions of the disabled workforce.

The company’s 54 factories face closure, with the loss of up to 4,000 workers, when current public funding ends in April 2013.

Watch a video report on Wednesday’s action here:

Ministers say the factories are uneconomic because they are working at half capacity. GMB blames EU regulations covering public funding and accuses managers of turning down work.

The union says it would cost the Treasury less to keep the Remploy factories operating fully loaded instead of putting employees out of work and onto welfare.

Says Phil Brannan: “The government says Remploy is not a 21st century operation, that it’s a ghetto. This factory is the only manufacturer of wheelchairs left in mainland UK. We are open industry.

“It took us 65 years to get what we’ve got and we’re determined to keep it.”

Officials say talks with the company are scheduled for next month.


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