A protest outside the Dept of Work and Pensions in Westminster stressed the determination by the trade unions to continue to fight to save the jobs of the disabled workers employed by Remploy.
On 2 August, the Remploy Consortium of trade unions, which includes the GMB, Unite and Community, suspended the strike due to take place on Monday 6 August to hold consultations with their members over further actions and to discuss Remploy's Individual Consultation meetings and Accord and greivance procedure at factory meetings on the Monday 6 or Tuesday 7 August.
They intend to set up regional Remploy Support Groups in every town and city and to call for demonstrations in London and other city centres to step up the fight.
A special Olympic flyer stresses 'We are NOT going for GOLD, We are condemned to DOLE' over the top of the five 'Olympic' rings of Unemployment, Ill Health, Discrimination, Death and Poverty and the message 'Stop. Stop the closure of Remploy factory sites.'
Remploy announced on 10 July that it was talking with bidders for 9 of the factories and a business which it proposed to close. The remaining 27 factories and its Boston Spa operations will end later this year. They say the closures 'will put at risk 1421 jobs in those factories and in central departments'. The union puts the figure around a hundred higher.
Remploy was set up to provide jobs for servicemen injured in WW2, and most of the workers for which it provides employment will find it difficult or impossible to find jobs elsewhere. Not because they do not have skills, but because they need the support that Remploy uniquely provides, enabling them to produce useful products.
The myths put about by Conservative politicians such as minister Mr Duncan Smith, who when he met Remploy workers at the House of Commons disgracefully said "Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?” are simply untrue.
The workers at Remploy do skilled work producing useful products such as furniture, circuit boards, windows and doors, leading edge chemical and biological and nuclear protective suits, wheelchairs and other mobility products, packaging, printing, and more. According to Remploy, their products are sold to 'the Police, high street retailers, leading vehicle manufacturers, banks, Government and thousands of hospitals and schools' among others.
The factories the Government wants to close are loss-making, although the losses are perhaps small in relation to the benefits. The unions have proposed changes that would greatly cut costs at Remploy by cutting down the layers of non-disabled management involved. They also point out that closing down the factories will end in costing the government more in benefits from the workers, most of whom will fail to find other work. The previous Labour government closed 29 Remploy factories in 2008, and 85% of the workers made redundant then are still on benefits.
The only group who will benefit from the closures are the asset strippers who get a cut-price deal from the government on the factories, who have been given a promise by the government that they will pay in full the cost of redundancy payments for the disabled workers.
Around 40 people came to the protest outside the DWP offices in Westminster, including Phil Davies, the Secretary of the Remploy Consortium and Kevin Hepworth, its Chair. This had not been intended to be a mass public demonstration, but just a small group including the officers and a Remploy worker, who would have gone into the offices and delivered their demands. But details of the event were published on Facebook and in the left-wing press, and a number of supporters with banners, placards and literature stalls, along with a small police presence turned up.
During the protest some of the supporters argued strongly with Phil Davies that the GMB and other unions were not putting their full weight behind the campaign, and that the strike should not have been called off. He disagreed vehemently, and made clear that it was the Remploy workers who were leading the actions and that they fully supported the actions of the union consortium. Some of the protesters were insistent that the workers should take direct action and be urged to occupy their workplaces, but, as Kevin Hepworth pointed out, our far-reaching trade union legislation made it impossible for unions to officially support more radical actions - they would simply have their property sequestrated.
After an hour and a half standing around outside the doorway of the DWP, the protesters began to drift off, and I left too.