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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reprieve for Remploy

It is difficult to evaluate whether Peter Hain's pronouncements yesterday on Remploy and their plans to close factories is good news or not. It certainly succeeded in heading off an embarrassing Conference defeat for the Labour Government, but does it offer renewed hope for workers as some think?

Mr. Hain says that it is now the government, rather than Remploy, which will decide on the future of these factories. So far so good, but it was the Labour government that was leading this agenda in the first place.

He says that there will be no compulsory redundancies for disabled workers at the 42 factories across the UK, including six in Wales, but that was already the public position of the Remploy board and it does not address the issue of travel for those workers who have been transferred to another site, nor the long term loss of job opportunities for future generations of disabled people.

Finally, he says that every effort will be made to ensure Remploy "could stay within budget, modernise, get extra work... and move forward into a promising future." That is very much the view of the Remploy Board as well and without details it is difficult to know how Peter Hain's words differ from those of management.

Still, we have to accept that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is being sincere and that he genuinely wants to reach a compromise that is acceptable to all sides. In that respect we will wait and see what emerges from this process over the next few weeks.
Spot on Peter. There was nothing new in Mr Hains statement.

The £555 million 'rescue package' wass already on the table in May 2007. The difference was that back then it was presented as a 'spending limit' and the reason for the proposed modernisation (factory closures).

As you correctly state, Bob Warner and the Remploy Board of Directors have NEVER had the authority to close factories. Their remit has always been to present proposals for ministerial approval.

No redundancy for disabled employees was also on the table in May 2007 and in fact, has always been a feature of Remploy (TU agrreed) terms and conditions.

So what have we actually gained from the Labour Party Conference?
Some reprieve!,

In reward for over 20 years of loyal service, Remploy have handed me (along with nearly 2000 other disabled factory employees) a redundancy notice for Christmas.

While Anne McGuire and her associates continually promote the aims and objectives of Equality 2025, Remploy backed by the Government have embarked on phase 1of the Remploy factory closures.

Given that the aim of Equality 2025is to acheive equality for people with disabilities, it would seem that the factory closures are at least 17 years premature.

People with disabilities are being forced out of the factories, into a mainstream work environment which is ill equipped to identify
and nurture their skills and has neither the experience or will to accomodate their needs.

People with disabilities face difficulties accessing employment on a daily basis. To often access to jobs is barred by lack of ramps, welfare facilities, lifting equipment, communicators for BSL users etc, etc, etc.

Lets face it!, Remploy has guaranteed that we will remain on our current terms and conditions for the rest of our working lives. In theory we could sit at home and draw our wages, but we are proud people, producing quality products, who have a desire to work for a living.

Our Government has got its priorities all wrong. The Northern Rock saga proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Labour Party see the interest of private investors to be more important than the welfare of some of the UKs most vulnerable citizens.
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